AMONG my letters is one from Dr. E. D. North, desiring me to furnish, any facts within my reach, relating to the scientific character and general opinions of the late James G. Percival. This information Dr. North proposed to incorporate into a memoir, to be prefixed to a new edition of Percival’s Poems. The biographer, with his task unfinished, has followed the subject of his studies to the tomb.

Dr. North’s request revived in me many recollections of Percival ; and finally led me to draw out the following sketch of him, as he appeared to my eyes in those days when I saw him often, and sometimes shared his pursuits. Vague and shadowy is the delineation, and to myself seems little better than the reminiscence of a phantom or a dream. Pereival's life had few externalities,—he related himself to society by few points of contact; and I have been compelled to paint him chiefly by glimpses of his literary and interior existence.

My acquaintance with him grew out of some conversations on geological topics, and commenced in 1828, when he was working on his translation of MalteBrim’s Geography. The impression made on me by his singular person and manners was vivid and indelible. Slender in form, rather above than under the middle height, he had a narrow chest, and a peculiar stoop, which was not in the back, but high up in the shoulders. His head, without being large, was fine. His eyes were of a dark hazel, and possessed uncommon expression. His nose, mouth, and chin were symmetrically, if not elegantly formed, and came short of beauty only because of that meagfeness which marked his whole person. His complexion, light without redness, inclined to sallow, and suggested a temperament somewhat bilious. His dark brown hair had become thin above the forehead, revealing to advantage that most striking feature of his countenance. Taken all together, his appearance was that of a weak man, of delicate constitution,— an appearance hardly justified by the fact; for he endured fatigue and privation with remarkable stanchness.

Peryival’s face, when he was silent, was full of calm, serious meditation ; when speaking, it lighted up with thought, and became noticeably expressive. He commonly talked in a mild, unimpassioned undertone, but just above a whisper, letting his voice sink with rather a pleasing cadence at the completion of each sentence. Even when most animated, he used no gesture except a movement of the first and second fingers of his right hand backward and forward across the palm of the left, meantime following their monotonous unrest with his eyes, and rarely meeting the gaze of his interlocutor. He would stand for hours, when talking, his right elbow on a mantelpiece, if there was one near, his fingers going through their strange palmistry; and in this manner, never once stirring from his position, he would not unfrequently protract his discourse till long past midnight. An inexhaustible, undemonstrative, noiseless, passionless man, scarcely evident to you by physical qualities, and impressing you, for the most part, as a creature of pure intellect.

His wardrobe was remarkably inexpensive, consisting of little more than a single plain suit, brown or gray, which he wore winter and summer, until it became threadbare. He never used boots; and his shoes, though carefully dusted, were never blacked. A most unpretending bow fastened his cravat of colored cambric. For many years his only outer garment was a brown camlet cloak, of very scanty proportions, thinly lined, and a meagre protection against winter. His hat was worn for years before being laid aside, and put you in mind of the prevailing mode by the law of contrast only. He was never seen with gloves, and rarely with an umbrella. The value of his entire wardrobe scarcely exceeded fitly dollars; yet he was always neat, and appeared unconscious of any peculiarity in his costume.

An accurate portrait of him at any period of his life can scarcely be said to exist. His sensitive modesty seems to have made him unwilling to let his features be exposed to the flaring notoriety of canvas. Once, indeed, he allowed himself to be painted by Mr. George A. Flagg; but the picture having been exhibited in the Trumbull Gallery of Yale College, Percival’s susceptibility took alarm, and he expressed annoyance,—though whether dissatisfied with the portrait or its public exposure I cannot say. The artist proposed certain alterations, and the poet listened to him with seeming assent. The picture was taken back to the studio; objectionable or questionable parts of it painted out; the likeness destroyed for the purpose of correction; and Percival was to give another sitting at his convenience. That was the last time he put himself within painting reach of Mr. Flagg’s easel.1

In those days of our early acquaintance, he occupied two small chambers, one of which fronted on the business part of Chapel Street (New Haven). His books, already numerous, were piled in double tiers and in heaps against the walls, covering the floors also, and barely leaving space for his sleeping-cot, chair, and writing-table. His library was a sanctum to which the curious visitor hardly ever gained admittance. He met even his friends at the door, and generally held his interviews with them in the adjoining passage. Disinclined to borrow books, he was especially averse to lending. Dr. Guhrauer’s assertion respecting Leibnitz, that “ his library was numerous and valuable, and its possessor had the peculiarity that he liked to worm in it alone, being very reluctant to let any one see it,” applies equally well to Percival.

He was rarely visible abroad except in his walks to and from the country, whither he often resorted to pass not hours only, but frequently entire days, in solitary wanderings,—partly for physical exercise,—still more, perhaps, to study the botany, the geology, and the minutest geographical features; of the environs; for his restless mind was perpetually observant, and could not be withheld from external Nature, even by his poetic and philosophic meditation. In these excursions, he often passed his fellow-mortals without noticing them. A friend, if observed, he greeted with a slight nod, and possibly stopped him for conversation. Once started on a subject, Pcrcival rarely quitted it until it was exhausted ; and consequently these interviews sometimes outlasted the leisure of his listener. You excused yourself, perhaps; or you were called away by some one else; but you had only put off the conclusion of the discourse, not escaped it. The next time Percival encountered you, his first words were, “As I was saying,”—and taking up the thread of his observations where it had been broken, he went straight to the end.

The excellent bookstore of the late Hezekiah Howe, one of the best in New England, and particularly rich in those rare and costly works which form a bookworm’s delight, was one of Percival’s best-loved lounging-places. He bought freely, and, when he could not buy, he was welcome to peruse. He read with marvellous rapidity, skipping as if by instinct everything that was unimportant; avoiding the rhetoric, the commonplaces, the falsities; glancing only at what was new, what was true, what was suggestive. He had a distinct object in view; but it was not to amuse himself, nor to compare author with author ; it was simply to increase the sum of his own knowledge. Perhaps it was in these rapid forays through unbought, uncut volumes, that he acquired his singular habit of reading books, even his own, without subjecting them to the paper-knife. People who wanted to see Percival and obtain his views on special topics were accustomed to look for him at Mr. Howe’s, and always found him willing to pour forth his voluminous information.

His income at this time was derived solely from literary jobs, and was understood to be very limited. What he earned he spent chiefly for books, particularly for such as would assist him in perfecting that striking monument of his varied and profound research, his new translation and edition of Malte-Brun. For this labor the time had been estimated, and the publishers had made him an allowance, which, if he had worked like other men, would have amounted to eight dollars a day. But Percival would let nothing go out of his hands imperfect; a typographical error, even, I have heard him say, sometimes depressed him like actual illness. He translated and revised so carefully, he corrected so many errors and added so many footnotes, that his industry actually devoured its own wages; and his eight dollars gradually diminished to a diurnal fifty cents.

Percival made no merely ceremonial calls, few friendly visits, and attended no parties. If he dropped in upon a family of his acquaintance, he rarely addressed himself to a lady. Otherwise there was nothing peculiar in his deportment; for, if silent, he was not embarrassed,—and if he talked, it was without any appearance of self-consciousness.

Judging from his isolated habits, some persons supposed him misanthropic. Let me give one instance of his good-nature. One of the elder professors of Yale had fallen into a temporary niisappreciation with the students, who received his instructions, to say the least, with an illconcealed indifference. They whispered during his lectures, and in other ways rendered themselves strenuously disagreeable to the sensitive nerves of the professor. Indignant at such behavior toward a worthy and learned man, who had been his own instructor, Percival proposed a plan for stopping the annoyance. It was, that a number of old graduates, professors, and others, himself being one, should attend the lectures, listen to them with the respect they merited, and so, if possible, bring the students to a sense of propriety and of the advantages they were neglecting.

No, Percival was not a misanthrope. During an acquaintance of twenty-five years, I never knew him do an act or utter a word which could countenance this opinion. He indulged in no bitter remarks, cherished no hatred of individuals, affected no scorn of his race ; on the contrary, he held large views concerning the noble destinies of mankind, and expressed deep interest in its advancement toward greater intelligence and virtue. The local affections he certainly had, for he was gratified at the prosperity of his fellow-townsmen, proud of his native State, and took a pleasure in defending her name from unjust aspersions. Patriotic, too,—none more so,—he rejoiced in the welfare of the whole country, knew its history thoroughly, and bestowed on its military heroes, in particular, a lively appreciation, which was singular, perhaps, in a man of such gentle habits and nature. I cannot forget the excited pleasure with which we visited, when on the geological survey of Connecticut, Putnam’s Stair's at Horseneck, and Putnam’s Wolf-Den in Pomfret. At the latter place, Percival’s enthusiasm for the heroic hunter and warrior led him to carve his initials on a rock at the entrance of the chasm. It was the only place during the tour where he left a similar memorial.

American statesmen he admired scarcely less than American soldiers; nor did he neglect any information within his reach concerning public men and measures. It was singular to observe with what freedom from excitement he discussed the most irritating phases of party,—speaking of the men and events of his own day with as much philosophic calmness as if they belonged to a previous century ; not at all deceived, I think, by the. temporary notoriety and power which frequently attend the political bustler,—quite positive, indeed, that many of our “ great men ” were far inferior to multitudes in private life. Webster he respected greatly, and used to regret that his fortune was not commensurate with his tastes. Like a true poet, he believed devoutly in native genius, considered it something inimitable and incommunieable, and worshipped it whereever he found it.

Percival was indifferent and even disinclined to female soeiety. There is a common story that he had conceived an aversion to the whole sox in consequence of a youthful disappointment in love. I know nothing concerning this alleged chagrin, but I am confident that he cherished no such antipathy. He never, in my hearing, said a hard thing of any woman, or of the sex; and I remember distinctly the flattering and even poetic appreciation with which he spoke of individual ladies. Of one who has since become a distinguished authoress of the South, he said, that “ her conversation had as great an intellectual charm for him as that of any scholar among his male acquaintances." Of a lady still resident in New Haven, he observed, that “ there was a mysterious beauty in her thoughtful face and dark eyes which reminded him of a deep and limpid forestfountain.” But although he did not hate women, he certainly was disinclined to their society,—an oddity, I beg leave to say, in any man, and a most surprising eccentricity in a poet. Constitutional timidity may have founded this habit during youth ; for, as I have already observed, his modesty was sensitive and almost morbid. Then came his multitudinous studies, which absorbed him utterly, and in which, unfortunately for Percival, if not for the ladies, these last took so little interest that conversation was not mutually desirable. A remark he made to a scientific friend, who had just been married, will, perhaps, throw some light on the subject. “ How is this ? ” said he; “I thought you were wedded to science." This was all the felicitation he had to offer ; and without asking for the bride, he plunged into the discussion which was the object of the visit.

In 1835 commenced the geological survey of Connecticut, and I became Percival’s companion in labor. To him was intrusted the geology proper, and to myself the mineralogy and its economical applications. During the first season, we prosecuted our investigations together, travelling in a one-horse wagon, which carried all our necessary implements, and visiting, before the campaign ended, every parish in the State. Great was the wonder our strange outfit and occupation excited in some rustic neighborhoods ; and very often were we called upon to enlighten the popular mind with regard to our object and its uses. This was never a pleasant task to Percival. He did not relish long confabulations with a sovereign people somewhat ignorant of geology ; and, moreover, his style of describing our business was so peculiar, that it rarely failed to transfer the curiosity to himself, and lead to tiresome delays. In New Milford, an inquisitive farmer requested us, in a somewhat ungracious manner, to give an account of ourselves. Percival replied, that we were acting under a commission from the Governor to ascertain the useful minerals of the State; whereupon our utilitarian friend immediately demanded to be informed how the citizens at large, includinghimself, were to be benefited by the undertaking,—putting question on question in a fashion which was most pertinacious and almost impertinent. Percival became impatient, and tried to hurry away. “I demand the information,” exclaimed the New Milfordite ; “ I demand it as my right. You are only servants of the people ; and you are paid, in part, at least, out of my pocket.” “ I’ll tell you what we’ll do,” said Percival ; “ we can’t stop, but we’ll refund. Your portion of the geological tax, — let me see,—it must be about two cents. We prefer handing you this to encountering a further delay.” Our agricultural friend and master did not take the money, although he did the hint,—and in sulky silence withdrew from our company.

Driving through the town of arren, we stopped a farmer to inquire the way to certain places in the vicinity. He gave us the information sought, staring at us meanwhile with a benevolently inquisitive expression, and, at last, volunteering the remark, that, if we wanted a job, we had better stop at the factory in the hollow. We thanked him for his goodness, and thought, perhaps, of Sedgewick geologizing by the road-side, and getting a charitable half-crown flung at him by a noble lady who was on her way to dine in his company at the house of a mutual acquaintance.

Let us grant here one brief parenthesis of respect and astonishment to the scientific knowledge and philological acumen of a distinguished graduate of Yale College, and member of Congress, whom we encountered on our travels. Hearing us speak of mosaic granite, a rock occurring in Woodbridge, to which we had given this name, from the checkerlike arrangement of its felspathic ingredient, he concluded that we attributed its formation to the era of Moses, and asked Percival what evidence he had for such an opinion. Small blame to him, perhaps, for the blunder, but it seemed a very droll one to geologists.

In Greenwich, the extreme southwestern town of the State, we encountered an incident to which my companion would sometimes refer with a slight degree of merriment. In general, he was no joker, no anecdotist, and had but a feeble appreciation of droll sayings or humorous matters of any kind. But in Greenwich he heard a memorable phrase. Among the tavern-loungers was a man who had evidently seen better days, and who, either for that reason or because of the huge amount of rum he had swallowed, entertained a lofty opinion of himself and discoursed de omnibus rebus in a most consequential fashion. He soon made himself a sort of medium between ourselves and his fellow-loafers. Overhearing us say that we wished to pass the New York frontier for the sake of tracing out the strata then under examination, he proceeded with much pomposity to declare to his deeply curious auditory, that “it was his opinion that the Governor of the State should confer upon these gentlemen discretionary powers to pass the limits of Connecticut, whenever and wherever, in the prosecution of their labors, the interests of science required them so to do.” After this, we rarely crossed the State line but Percival observed, “ We are now taking advantage of our discretionary powers.”

Of the few stories Percival told me, here is one. In one of our countryplaces, a plain, shrewd townsman fell into chance conversation with him, and entertained him with some account of a neighbor who had been seized with a mania for high Art, and had let loose his frenzy upon canvas in a deluge of oilcolors. I" I mistake not, Percival was invited to inspect these productions of untaught and perhaps unteaehable genius. They were vast attempts at historical scenes, in which the heads and legs of heroes were visible, but played a very secondary part in the interest, compared with a perfect tempest of drapery, which rolled in ungovernable masses, like the clouds of a thunder-storm.

“ What do you think of them ? ” inquired Percival.

“ Well, I don’t claim to be a judge of such things,” replied his cicerone; “but the fact is, (and I told the painter so,) that, when I look at ’em, about the only thing I can think of is a resurrection of old clothes.”

In the town of Lebanon, an incident occurred which affected us rather more seriously. Turning a corner suddenly, we came upon an old man digging up cobble-stones by the road-side and breaking them in pieces with an axe. “ A brother-geologist,” was our first impression. At that moment the old man sprang toward us, the axe in one hand and half a brick in the other, shouting eagerly,—

"I guess Mr. -” (name indistinguishable) “will be glad to see you, gentlemen.”

“ For what ? ”

“ "Why, he has got several boxes of jewels; and I gave an advertisement in the paper.”

“ Whose are they ? ”

“ King Jerome’s.”

“ And who is he ? ”

“ The king of the world ! ” shouted the maniac, still advancing with a menacing air, and so near the wagon by this time that he might almost have hit Percival with his axe.

Without pausing to hear more about the jewels, a sudden blow to the horse barely enabled us to escape the reach of our fellow-laborer before he bad time to use his axe on our own formations.

In the following year, when Percival was pursuing the survey by himself, on horseback, some of the elements of this adventure were repeated, but reversed after a very odd fashion. The late Dr. Carrington, of Farmington, who told me the tale, being ten miles from home on a professional excursion, drove up to a tavern and found liimself welcomed with extraordinary emphasis by the innkeeper. The Doctor was just the person he wanted to see; the Doctor’s opinion was very much needed about that strange man out there ; he wished the Doctor to have a talk with him, and see whether lie was crazy or not. The fellow had been there a day or two, picking up stones about the lots ; and some of the boys had been sent to watch him, but could get nothing out of him. This morning he wanted to go away, and ordered his horse; but the neighbors wouldn’t let it be brought up, for they said he was surely some mad chap who had taken another man’s horse. Thus talking, the landlord pointed out Percival, surrounded by a group of villagers, who, quietly, and under pretence of conversation, were holding him under a sort of arrest. The Doctor rushed into the circle, addressed his friend Percival by name, spoke of the survey, and thus satisfied the bystanders, who, guessing their mistake, dispersed silently. No open remonstrance was needed, and perhaps Percival never understood the adventure in which he thus unconsciously formed the principal character.

While we were in Berlin, the native town of Percival, he related to me several incidents of his earlier life. His father was discussing some geographical question with a neighbor ; and tbe future geologist, then a boy of seven or eight, sat by listening until the ignorance of his elders tempted him to speak. “ Where did you learn that ? ” they asked, in astonishment. With timid reluctance, he confessed that he had been reading clandestinely Morse’s large geography, of which there was a copy in a society-library kept at his father’s house. The book, he added, had an indescribable attraction for him ; and even at that almost infantile age he was familiar with its contents. It was this reading of Morse, perhaps, which determined his taste for those geographical studies in which he subsequently became so distinguished. With him, as with Humboldt and Guyot, geography was a term of wide signification. Far from confining it to the names and boundaries of countries, seas, and lakes, to the courses of rivers and the altitudes of mountains, be connected with it meteorology, natural history, and the leading facts of human history, ethnology, and archæology. He knew London as thoroughly as most Americans know New York or Philadelphia, and yet he had never crossed the Atlantic.

An instance of the minuteness of his geographical information was related to me by the Rev. Mr. Adam, a Scottish clergyman, long resident at Benares, but subsequently settled over the Congregational Church in Amherst, Massachusetts. On his way to visit me at New Haven, he met in the stage-coach a countryman of his, who soon opened a controversy with him respecting the course of a certain river in Scotland. The discussion had continued for some time, when another passenger offered a suggestion which opened the eyes of the debaters to the fact (not untfequently the case in such controversies) that they were both wrong. “How long since you were there, Sir?” they asked ; and the reply was, “ I never was in Scotland.” “ Who are you, Sir?” Mr. Adam wanted to ask, but kept the question until he could put it to me. I did not feel much hesitation in telling him that the stranger must have been Percival; and Percival it was, as I afterwards learned by questioning him of the circumstance.

But we must return to Berlin, in order to hear one more of Percival's stories. Passing a field, half a mile from his early home, he told an incident connected with it, and related to his favorite study of natural history. The field had belonged to his father, who, besides being the physician of Berlin, indulged a taste for agriculture. Just before the harvest season, it became palpable that this field, then waving with wheat, was depredated upon to a wasteful extent by some unknown subjects of the animal kingdom. Having watched for the pilferers in vain by day, the proprietor resolved to mount guard by night, and accordingly ambushed himself in the invaded territory. Near midnight, he saw his own flock of geese, hitherto considered so trustworthy, approach silently in single file, make their entry between the rails, and commence transferring the wheat-crop into their own crops, after a ravenous fashion. Having eaten their fill, they re-formed their column of march, with a venerable gander at the head, and trudged silently homeward, cautiously followed by their owner, who noticed, that, on regaining his door-yard, they set up a vociferous cackle, such as he had repeatedly heard from them before at about, the same hour. It was a most evident attempt to establish an allbi: it was as much as to say, “ If you miss any wheat, we didn’t take it; we are honest birds, and stay at home o’ nights, Dr. Percival.” The next morning, however, a general decapitation overtook the flock of feathered hypocrites. “ It was a curious instance of the domestic goose reverting to its wild habit of nocturnal feeding,” remarked my narrator, dwelling characteristically upon the natural-history aspect of the fact,

Percival was almost incapable of an irrelevancy. The survey was the business in hand, and he rarely discoursed much of things disconnected with it, except, perhaps, when we were retracing our routes, or when the labors of the day were over. Of poets and poetry he was not inclined to speak. I never heard him quote a line, either his own or another’s, nor indulge in a single poetic observation concerning the objects which met us in our wanderings. Indeed, he confessed that he no longer felt disposed to write verses, being satisfied that his productions were not acceptable to the prevailing taste; although he admitted that he composed a few stanzas occasionally, in order to make trial of some unusual measure or new language. He told me that he had versified in thirteen languages ; and I have heard from others that he had imitated all the Greek and German metres.

Of politics, foreign and domestic, he talked frequently, but always philosophically and dispassionately, much as if he were speaking of geological stratification. His views of humanity were deduced from a most extensive survey of the race in all its historical and geographical relations. He distinctly recognized the fact of its steady advance from one stage to another, in accordance with a plan of intellectually organic development, as marked as that detected by the geologist in the gradual preparation of the earth for the abode of our species. The slowness and seeming vacillation of man’s upward movement could not stagger his faith ; for if it had taken thousands of ages to make earth habitable, why should it not take thousands more to bring man to his completeness? Equally free was he from misgiving on account of the remaining presence of so much misery and wretchedness; for these he considered as the indispensable stimuli to progress. Even war, he used to say, is sometimes necessary to the welfare of nations, as sickness and sorrow plainly are to that of individuals ; although, to his moral sense, the human authors of this scourge wore no more admirable than the devisers of any private calamity. Improvements in knowledge he regarded as the only elements of real progress ; and these he looked upon as true germinal principles, bound up organically in the constitution of the human soul. Indeed, that philosophical calmness which was characteristic of him seemed to flow in some measure from his settled persuasion that the same matchless wisdom and benevolence he recognized throughout Nature wrought with a still higher providence and a more earnest love for man and would make all things finally conduce to his welfare. It was clear that he drew a profound tranquillity from the thought that he was a part of the vast and harmonious whole.

Concerning his religious views he was exceedingly taciturn. He had no taste for metaphysical or theological discussions, although his library contained a large number of standard works on these subjects. Religion itself he never alluded to but with the deepest respect. Talking to me of Christianity, he quoted the observation of Goethe, that “ it had brought into the world a light never to be extinguished.” He spoke of Jesus with poetic, if not with Christian fervor. He contrasted his teachings and deeds with the prevailing maxims and practice of the people among whom he appeared, with the dead orthodoxy of its religious teachers, and with the general ignorance and hypocrisy of the masses. “ Had I lived in such a state of society,” he said, “ I am certain that it would have driven me mad.”

He expressed an earnest esteem for the doctrines of the Evangelical clergy, and even approved, though more moderately, the religious awakenings which occur under their labors. He described to me, with some particularity, a revival he had witnessed in his native town, when young; and repeated some of the quaint exhortations of the lay brethren, all in a manner perfectly serious, but calculated, perhaps, to leave the impression, that such views of religion were not necessary to himself, although they might be quite suited to the minds of others.

The rational theology he regarded as anti-poetic in influence, and of very doubtful efficacy in working upon the masses. He appreciated, however, the honesty and superior culture of the Unitarian scholars and clergy of Boston, with many of whom he had been on terms as intimate as his shyness accorded to any one.

He attended church but once with me while we were engaged in the survey. We heard a discourse, from a Rev. Dr. E——*, upon the conduct of the young ruler who inquired his duty of Christ. The speaker argued from the sacred narrative a universal obligation to devote our possessions to religious purposes, — and upheld, as an example to all men, the self-devotion of a young missionary (then somewhat known) who had despised a splendid fortune, offered him on condition of his remaining at home, and had consecrated himself to the Christianization of Africa.

“How did you like the sermon.?” I inquired of Percival.

“I consider it an animating and probably useful performance,” he replied ; “ but it does not accord with comprehensive conceptions of humanity, inasmuch as its main inference was drawn from the exception, and not from the rule. There always have been, and probably always will be, men possessed of the self-immolating or martyr spirit. Such instances are undoubtedly useful, and have my admiration: but they cannot become general, and never were meant to be.”

During the survey, we were invited to pass an evening in a family remarkable for its musical talent, and I remember distinctly the evident pleasure with which Percival listened to the chorus of organ tones and rich cultivated voices. In general, however, his appreciation of music was subordinate to his study of syllabic movement in versification ; and it was with reference chiefly to poetic measure, I have been told, that he acquired what mastery he had over the accordion and guitar.

Percival’s favorite topics, when evening came and we rested from our stony labors, were the modern languages and the philosophy of universal grammar. They seemed to have filled the niches in his heart, from which he had banished, or tried to banish, the Muses. The subtile refinements of Bopp were a perpetual luxury to him; he derived language from language as easily as word from word; and, once started in the intricacies of the Russian or the Basque, there was no predicting the end of the discourse. Thus were thrown away, upon a solitary listener, midnight lectures which would have done honor to the class-rooms of Berlin or the Sorbonne. In looking at such an instance of intellectual pleasure and acumen, as connected in no small degree with the study of foreign languages, one cannot avoid associating together the unsolved mystery of that discrepancy of tongues prevailing in different countries with the disagreeing floras and faunas of the same; regions, — each diversity bearing alike the unmistakable marks of Omnipotent design for the happiness and improvement of man.

The perfection of his memory was amazing. During the year following the survey, when we had frequent occasion to compare recollections, I observed that no circumstance of our labors was shadowy or incomplete in his memory. He could refer to every trifling incident of the tour, recall every road and path that we had followed, every field and ledge that we had examined, particularize the day of the week on which we had dined or supped at such a tavern, and mention the name of the landlord. I asked him how he was able to remember such minutiæ. He replied, that it was his custom, on going to bed, to call up, in the darkness and stillness, all the incidents of the day's experience, in their proper order, and cause them to move before him like a diorama through a spiritual morning, noon, and evening. “It has often appeared to me,” he said, “that in this purely mental process I see objects more distinctly than I behold them in the reality.”

But his memory doubtless gained an immense additional advantage from his habitual seclusion, from his unconcern with the distracting customs of society, and most of all, from the imperturbable abstraction under which he studied and observed. With him there was no blending of collateral subjects, no permitted intrusion of things irrelevant or trivial, so that the channels of his thoughts were always single, deep, and traceable. It was a mental straightforwardness and conscientiousness, as rare, perhaps, as moral rectitude itself.

In diet, Percival was the most abstemious person I ever knew. His health was uniformly good,— the specimens of a geologist, when he collects them himself, being as favorable to digestion and appetite as the pebbles to a chicken; yet. I am persuaded, my companion in no case violated the golden rule of leaving the table unsated. No matter how long had been his fast, he showed no impatience of hunger, made no remark upon the excellence of any dish, found fault with nothing, or, at most, only seemed to miss drinkable coffee and good bread, articles seldom to be met with in the country. He ate slowly, selecting his food with the discrimination which ought to belong to a chemist or physiologist, and then thought no more about it. Alcoholic drinks he never tasted, except an occasional glass of wine, to which his attention perhaps had been called on account of its age or superior excellence. Even then it was not the flavor which interested him, so much as the history, geographical and other.

Peculiar as he was in his own habits of diet, he offered no strictures upon the practice of others, however different, unless it ran into hurtful excesses. The maxim of Epictetus in the " Enchiridion,” “ Never preach how others ought to eat, but eat you as becomes you,” seemed to be his rule. Indeed, Percival was one of those rare men who withhold alike censure and praise respecting the minor matters of life. Not that he was without opinions on such subjects; but, to obtain them, one was forced to question him. On the whole, I do not think it would be going too far to apply to him the above-named moralist's description of the wise man :-— “ He reproves nobody, praises nobody, blames nobody, nor even speaks of himself; if any one praises him, in his own mind he contemns the flatterer; if any one reproves him, he looks with care that he be not unsettled in the state of tranquillity that he has entered into. All his desires depend on things within his power; he transfers all his aversions to those things which Nature commands us to avoid. His appetites are always moderate. He is indifferent whether he be thought foolish or ignorant. He observes himself with the nicety of an enemy or a spy, and looks on his own wishes as betrayers."

Percival's solitary habits, combined with the invariable seriousness of his manner, led many persons to believe him melancholy, and even disposed to suicide, lie did, indeed, confess to me, that he sometimes felt giddy on the edge of a precipice. This was his nearest approach, I am confident, to the idea of self-destruetion. While we were examining the great iron furnaces of Salisbury, lie told me that he was afraid of walking near the throat of a chimney when in blast, and that more than once he had turned and run from the lurid, murky orifice, lest a sudden failure of self-control should cause him to reel into the consuming abyss. No,—Percival neither felt nor expressed disgust with life. On the contrary, he was strongly attached to it; the acquisition of knowledge clothed it with inexpressible value ; the longest, day was ever too short to fulfil his designs. Like the wise, laborious men of all ages, he almost repined at the swiftness of the years. “ I am amazed at the flight of time,” he said to me, on the arrival of his forty-second birthday; “ it seems only a year since I was thirty-two ;—I have lost ten years of my life.”

Before entering upon the survey of Connecticut, he was not specially devoted to any one branch of physics, although his tastes inclined him most toward geology. While he could sympathize perfectly, he said, with those who threw their whole force into a single study, he felt himself attracted equally by the entire circle of Nature, and thought omniscience a nobler object of ambition than any one science. He admitted that the search after all knowledge is incompatible with eminence in any particular department ; but he believed that it affords higher pleasure to the mind, and confers ability to do signal service to mankind in pointing out the grand connections, the general laws, of Nature.

It is not, perhaps, widely known, that Percival was a well-informed botanist. He studied this branch when a medical student under Professor Ives, and assisted his instructor in laying out a small botanical garden, the plants of which were arranged after the natural orders of Jussieu. Soon after finishing his medical education, he gave a course of lectures on botany in Charleston, South Carolina, before a very select audience, composed mostly of ladies. The only drawback to the lecturer’s success was his excessive, timidity. As an evidence of the assiduity with which he botanized, it may be mentioned that he had seen the Geranium Robertianum (a plant which nestles in the sunny clefts of our trap mountains) in bloom, during every month of the year. One year he found its blossoms in December, another in January, and so on, until the round of the monthly calendar was completed.

Percival was an earnest advocate of popular education. He manifested much interest in the first systematic attempt (at the instance of Mr. James Brewster) to furnish the people of New Haven with popular instruction in the form of lectures. At a public dinner, given by Mr. Brewster, on the occasion of opening the building in which rooms had been fitted up for these lectures, the late Mr. Skinner gave the toast, "Our mechanics, the right arm of New Haven,” and Percival followed with, “ Science, the right eye which directs the right arm of New Haven.” He believed most fully in the superiority of intelligent labor. He pointed out cases in which a college-training had been connected with signal eminence in mechanical invention, and said, that, according to his observations, persons engaged in industrial pursuits usually succeeded in proportion to the thoroughness of their education.

Percival himself gave a course of lectures, or rather, lessons, in New Haven, —not in the building above mentioned, for his natural timidity was too great to encounter a public audience, but in the theological lecture-room of Yale College. They were on the German language, and consisted chiefly of translations of prose and poetry into English, intermingled with philosophical commentaries on the peculiarities of the original. It was pure grammar ; he did not talk German, and claimed no acquaintance with the niceties of pronunciation ; but all his listeners, most of whom were graduates, were struck with his perfect mastery of the subject.

Percival held one peculiar opinion concerning a branch of college education. He objected to the modern practice of teaching the natural sciences by means of a profusion of drawings, models, showy experiments, and other expedients addressing the mind so strongly through the eye. While these might he allowable in popular lectures, before audiences lacking in early intellectual discipline, where amusement was a consideration, and where without it the public car could not be secured, he thought that the collegian should study differently,— that his understanding should be taxed severely, and that he should be inured, from the first, to rigid attention, in order to a lasting remembrance of the truths offered to him. It would be a useful exercise for the instructor, he thought, to elucidate obscure phenomena and complicated structures by words only, assisting himself, perhaps, occasionally, by extemporaneous drawings. Such a course would inspire the scholar with deference for his teacher, and confidence in his own ability to acquire a similar grasp of the subject. While there is certainly some truth in this opinion, it would not be difficult, perhaps, to invalidate its general force. Why should the ear be the only admitted means of acquiring knowledge ? Nature, the greatest of teachers, does not judge thus: she conveys half her wisdom to us by sight, instead of by faith; she gives her first lessons to the infant through the eye. Would Percival, in looking for his attentive audiences, have preferred a congregation of blind men ?

Speaking of literary composition, he said that he often took great pains with his productions, shifting words and phrases in many ways, before satisfying himself that he had attained the best form of expression ; and he assured me that these slowly elaborated passages were the very ones in which he afterwards recognized the most ease and nature, and which others supposed him to have thrown off carelessly. I asked him how it was that children, in their unpremeditated way, expressed themselves with so much directness and beauty. They have but a single idea to present at a time, he said ; they seize without hesitation on the first words that offer for its expression, unperplexed by any such choice of terms as would surely occur to maturer minds; and most important of all, perhaps, they are wholly unembarrassed by limiting qualifications arising from a fuller knowledge of the subject.

His prose style is a rare exemplification of classic severity and perspicuousness. In each paragraph the ideas arrange themselves in faultless connection, like the molecules of a crystal around its centre. The sentences are not long, the construction is simple, the words are English in its purity, without admixture of foreign phrase or idiom. But the most striking peculiarity of his diction is the utter absence of ornament; for Percival evidently held that the chief merits of composition are clearness and directness. Poetic imagery, brilliant climaxes and antitheses, fanciful or grotesque turns of expression, he rejected as unfavorable to that simple truth for which he studied and wrote. This dry, almost mathematical style, was no necessity with him; few men, surely, have had at command a richer vocabulary, English and foreign, than Percival; few could have adorned thought with more or choicer garlands from the fields of knowledge and imagination.

To letter-writing he had a great aversion. I have never seen a letter or note from him to which his signature was attached. The autograph-fanciers, therefore, will find a scanty harvest when they come to forage after the name of Percival. His handwriting corresponded in some sense with his character. It was fine ; the lines straight and parallel ; the letters completely formed, though without fulness of curve ; no flourishes, and no unnecessary prolongations of stroke, above or below the general run of the line. There were few erasures, the punctuation was perfect, and the manuscript was fit for the press as it left his hand.

Literary criticism he rarely indulged in, being too disinclined to praise or blame, and too intensely devoted to the acquisition of positive knowledge. If he commented severely upon anything, it was usually the slovenly diction of some of our State Surveys, or the inaccuracies of translations from foreign languages.

His only published criticism, of which I am aware, was discharged at a phrenological lecturer, whose extraordinary assumptions and ad-captandum style had excited his disgust. Percival did not reverence the science of bumps, and believed, in the words of William von Humboldt, that “it is one of those discoveries which, when stripped of all the charlatanerie that surrounds them, will show but a very meagre portion of truth.” Dr, Barber, an Englishman, and a somewhat noted teacher of elocution, having been converted to the phrenological faith, delivered certain magniloquent lectures on the same to the citizens of New Haven, and took pay therefor, after the manner of his sect. Percival responded with a sharp newspaper pasquinade, entitled “A Lecture on Nosology.” At the head of the article was a wood-cut of a gigantic nose, mapped out into faculties.

" Gentlemen, the nose is the most prominent feature in this bill,” commenced the parody. “ The nose is the true seat of the mind; and therefore, gentlemen, Nosology, or the science of the nose, is the true phrenology. He, who knows his nose, foreknows ; for he knows that which is before him. Therefore Nosology is the surest guide to conduct. Whatever progress an individual may make, his nose is always in advance. But society is only a congeries of individuals ; consequently its nose is always in advance,— therefore its proper guide. The nose, rightly understood, will assuredly work wonders in the cause of improvement ; for it is always going ahead, always first in every undertaking, always soonest at the goal. The ancients did not neglect the nose. Look at their busts and statues ! What magnification and abduction in Jove ! What insinuation and elongation in the Apollo! Then vovç (intellect) was surely the nose, — γνώσɭç (knowledge) noses,— Míνωç my nose. What intussusception, what potation, and, as a necessary consequence, alas ! what rubificatiOn! But I have seen such noses. Beware of them!—they are bad noses,— very bad noses, I assure you.....Do not, I pray you, consider me irreverent, if I say that Nosology will prove highly favorable to the cause of religion. This is indeed an awful subject, and I would not touch it on slight grounds ; but I sincerely believe that what I say is true. Nosology will prove highly favorable to the cause of religion ! Does not the nose stand forth like a watchman on the walls of Zion, on the look-out for all assailants? and when our faces are directed upwards in devotion, does not the nose ascend the highest and most especially tend heavenward? ..... Nosology is a manly science. It stands out in the open light. It does not conceal itself behind scratches and periwigs,—nor does it, like certain false teachers mentioned by St. Paul, go about from house to house, leading astray silly women.Finally, gentlemen, you may rest assured that Nosology will not gently submit to insult. Noli me tangere! Who ever endured a tweak of the nose ? It will know how to take vengeance. As Jupiter metamorphosed the inhospitable Lycians in'o frogs, so its contemners will suddenly find themselves βapβapóøɷʋo!

Percival has been thought over-tenacious of his opinions. He was certainly very circumspect in changing them. I have witnessed, however, several instances in which he yielded to the force of evidence in the modification of his views. He seemed to recognize geology, in particular, as a progressive science, in which new facts are constantly accruing, and therefore compelling readaptations of our views. He felt, indeed, in respect to all knowledge, the mathematics excepted, that modifications of belief, in well-regulated minds, are unavoidable, as the result of new information. Approach to higher truth through the sciences he seemed to regard under the aspect of that of besiegers to a beleaguered fortress. Principles and deductions, which were a boon and a triumph for us yesterday, lose their value to-day, when a new parallel of approach has been attained. He lost his interest in what was abandoned, necessary as it had been to the present position, only in the advantage of which, and its sure promise of what was still higher, he allowed himself to rejoice.

But where evidence was wanting, he was never to be moved to a change by any amount of importunity or temptation. This trait of character made him somewhat impracticable as a collaborator, in the philological task he was employed to perform under Dr. Noah Webster. Disagreements were to have been anticipated from the striking contrasts in their minds. They agreed in industry ; but Webster was decided, practical, strongly self-reliant, and always satisfied with doing the best that could be done with the time and means at command. Percival was timid and cautious, and, from the very breadth of his linguistic attainments, undecided. He often craved more time for arriving at conclusions. When he happened to differ from the great lexicographer, he would never yield an iota of his ground. These differences led to an early rupture in the engagement, almost before two letters of the alphabet had been completed. He much preferred to relinquish a profitable undertaking to going forward with it under circumstances not agreeable to his elevated standard of literary accuracy and completeness. lie felt that he could live on bread and water, or even give up these, if necessary ; but he could not violate his convictions of what was true and right. He was a perfect martyr to his literary and scientific conscientiousness.

He evinced the same spirit in respect to the geological survey. As his mind was not satisfied, he would not make known his results to the Legislature. They demanded the report, and he asked for an extension of time. Thus he continued his labors from year to year, upon a stipend scarcely adequate to cover his expenses. Instead, however, of nearing the goal, he only receded from it. New difficulties met him in the work; fresh questions arose, in the progress of geology itself, that called for reexaminations. His notes swelled to volumes, and his specimens increased to thousands. He was in danger of being crushed under the weight of his doubts and his materials. At last, the people clamored for the end of the work. The Legislature became peremptory, and forced Percival to acquiesce. In 1842 (seven years from tlie commencement of the survey) he rendered an octavo report of four hundred and ninety-five pages, in the introduction to which he observes,—“ I regret to say, I have not had the means allowed me for additional investigations, nor even for a proper use of my materials, either notes or specimens. The number of localities from which I have collected specimens I have estimated at nearly eight thousand; the records of dips and bearings are still more numerous. The report which follows is but a hasty outline, written mainly from recollection, with only occasional reference to my materials, and under circumstances little calculated for cool consideration. it was written, however, with an intention to state nothing of the truth or probability of which I did not feel satisfied. None can regret more than I do its imperfection; still I cannot but hope that it will contribute something towards the solution of the problem of the highest practical as well as scientific importance, the exact determination of the geological system of the State.”

Of this remarkable production it may very briefly be said, that it will ever remain a monument to the scientific and literary powers of its author. It describes every shade of variation in the different rocks, and their exact distribution over the surface of the State. This it accomplishes with a minuteness never before essayed in any similar work. The closeness and brevity of his descriptions make it one of the dryest productions ever issued on geological science, scarcely omitting the work of Humboldt, in which be sought to represent the whole of geology by algebraic symbols. Percival’s work actually demands, and would richly repay, a translation into the vernacular of descriptive geology, — the language and mode of illustration employed by Murchison and Hitchcock. In its present form, it is safe to say, it has never found a single reader among the persons for whose benefit it was written.

It is no part of my plan to speak of his poetical reputation. This I leave to others better able to do him justice. Indeed, he had nearly abandoned poetical composition before our acquaintance began. But it is safe, perhaps, to say here, that his writings have placed him among the first of our national poets; and had he resumed this species of composition, he could scarcely have failed of maintaining, in the fullest manner, his poetic fame. He possessed all the qualities reckoned essential to poetical excellence. We have already spoken of his astonishing memory, a trait regarded of such importance to the poet by the ancients as to have led them to call the Muses the daughters of this mental faculty. His powers of abstraction and imagination were no less remarkable,—while for extreme sensitiveness he was unsurpassed. His judgment was clear, and his appreciation of language refined to the last degree. His musical feeling, too, as well of time as of harmony, was intense ; while he had at command the universal stores of literature and science.

In closing these reminiscences, I cannot avoid noticing some of the useful impressions exerted by Percival upon the literary community amidst which he passed so large a portion of his life. To some the influence of such a recluse will doubtless seem insignificant. The reverse, however, I am persuaded, was the fact. Few students came to New Haven without bringing with them, imprinted on their youthful memories, some beautiful line of his poetry. Few had not heard of his universal scholarship and profound learning. Next to an acquaintance with the teachers from whom they expected to derive their educational training, their curiosity led them to inquire for Pereival. The sight of this modest, shrinking individual, as the possessor of such mines of intellectual wealth, it may well be understood, produced the deepest interest. In him they recognized a man superior to the clamor of vulgar gratification ; his indifference to gain, to luxury, and every form of display, his constant preference of the spiritual over the sensual, was always an impressive example to them. The indigent student took fresh courage as he saw in him to what a narrow compass exterior wants might be reduced; the man of fashion and the fop stood abashed before the simplicity ot his dress and daily life. And wherever the spirit of classic literature had been imbibed, and the capacity acquired of perceiving the severe worth of the true philosopher, the inspection of such a character, compared with the mere description of it in history, was like the difference between a statue and a living, breathing man. As at early dawn or in the gray twilight his slender form glided by, the thoughtful and poetic scholar could scarce refrain from uttering to himself, — “There goes Diogenes or Chrysippus! There goes one, by the side of whom many a bustler in letters is only a worthless drone, many an idolized celebrity a weak and pitiful sham ! ” Such a character as Percival’s, in the presence of a scholastic community, was a perpetual incentive to industry and manliness ; and although he rarely spoke in its hearing, and has left us fewer published works than many others, still I believe that thousands yet live to thank him for lessons derived from the simple survey of his daily life.

Though there is little likelihood that his example of self-abnegation and devotion to study will be followed by many of our youth, nevertheless, the occurrence of such a model now and then in the republic of letters constitutes a pleasing as well as useful phenomenon,—if for no other reason, because it breaks in upon the monotony of literary biography, and communicates a portion of that picturesqueness to scholastic life which belongs to Nature in everything else. That his course was fraught with happiness to himself cannot be doubted ; that it was beneficial also to his fellow-men is equally true ; and though he may be judged less leniently by minds incapable of pronouncing that to be a character honorable in the sight of God or man, which deviates from their own standard or creed, — to others, who recognize the highest possible cultivation of the mental faculties and unsullied purity of life as the noblest ends of our being, he will ever occupy a position shared by few of mortal race.

  1. I remember to have seen an excellent portrait of him, by Alexander, in the studio of that artist, in the year 1825; but in whose possession it now is, I am unable to say.