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LIFE OF JAMES WILSON, THE BLIND BIOGRAPHER.

"I go, I go! And must mine image fade

From the green spots wherein my childhood played
By my own streams?

Must my life part from each familiar place,

As a bird's song that leaves the woods no trace
Of its lone themes?"

JAMES WILSON was born May 24th, 1779, in Richmond, Virginia. His father, John Wilson, was a native of Scotland, who emigrated to this country when eighteen years of age, to manage the estate of his uncle, which he afterward inherited. After the death of his uncle, he married Elizabeth Johnson, of Baltimore. But, unfortunately for him, at the commencement of the revolutionary war, he found his predilections for monarchy too strong to relish the doctrines of liberty or death, and joined the royal cause. In consequence of this, a band of enraged incendiaries attacked and burned his dwelling, and laid waste his plantation. He served during five campaigns, in a detachment under the command of Lord Cornwallis, and was taken prisoner at Yorktown, where General Washington gave the finishing stroke to the war.

On being released, he found his health much impaired, and being perhaps much grieved to see the

star spangled banner, which he strove so hard to humble in the dust, now wave in proud triumph over the Colonies, he decided to take his family and return to England. Bound for Liverpool, the vessel set sail under the guidance of Captain Smith. But they had scarcely lost sight of land, when Mr. Wilson was attacked with severe illness, and twenty days after the ship had left New York harbor, he died.

Mrs. Wilson, being at this time in delicate health, was so shocked by this sad event, that she expired in twenty minutes after. They were both wrapped in one hammock, and committed to a watery grave! And James Wilson, their only surviving offspring, at the tender age of four years, was left a poor, friendless, fortuneless orphan. Nor was this the end of his misfortune; seized by the small pox, and for want of a mother's care and proper medical aid, this most loathsome disease deprived him of his sight. After a long and tedious voyage, the captain was compelled to put into Belfast harbor for repairs. Young Wilson, having not yet recovered from his illness, was immediately sent to the city and placed in charge of the church warden; and to prevent him from becoming a charge to the parish, the benevolent Captain Smith put in the warden's hands a sum of money sufficient to defray his expenses for five years.

When about seven years of age, his right eye was couched by Surgeon Wilson, and restored to partial sight. But shortly after, on crossing the street one day, he was attacked and badly bruised by

an ill-natured cow, which nearly cost him his life, and deprived him of the sight he had recovered. He early manifested great mental as well as physical activity, and was held in high esteem by his youthful associates, for daring exploits and inventive genius. So perfect a knowledge did he acquire of every street, nook, and principal building in Belfast, that he was not unfrequently a guide to strangers, with perfect sight, who groped about in midnight darkness, unable again to find their lodgings.

His first effort for self-maintenance, when about twelve years of age, was in carrying letters to and from the different offices of merchants and professional gentlemen, and was afterward employed by Mr. Gordon, editor of the Belfast News Letter, to deliver the papers to subscribers on the days of publication. While in this employment, he was often compelled to call at the residences of gentlemen four or five miles out of the city. But having a perfect knowledge of the surrounding country, he was enabled to execute his business with correctness and dispatch. His indigent circumstances and friendless condition, rendered his opportunities for acquiring knowledge exceedingly limited. But his native genius soon suggested plans to overcome these embarrassments, which his indomitable perseverance at length carried into full effect.

It seems to be indispensably necessary, that a mind destined to be truly great should be first disciplined in the school of rigid self-denial, and its progress

hedged up with the most formidable obstacles. For proof of this, we have but to turn over the annals of ancient and modern record, where we find mention of but few personages whose deeds brighten the pages of man's history, or who have been considered illustrious benefactors of their race, that have not risen from humble and embarrassing situations in life. The path leading to true intellectual greatness is fraught with such incessant toil, that there are few surrounded with wealth and affluence, who do not prefer their ease to walking therein. Hence the development of science and the fine arts, in every age, has been left to men of low estate, and often those seeming to labor under the greatest disadvantages.

A vigorous and aspiring intellect cannot be suppressed by mere physical circumstances; but like old Ocean's tide, it gathers strength from impediments, pressing forward with irresistible force, and scales in triumph the loftiest summits of opposition. To the truth of this remark, the trials and triumphs of Mr. Wilson during his long and eventful life bear testimony. When we behold him a poor, sightless, and .friendless boy, groping his way through the populous city of Belfast, delivering letters and papers from door to door, while the winter storms howled dismally through the narrow alleys, and the sleety rains fell upon his thin-clad form, a feeling of surprise unconsciously steals over us, that his young and tender heart did not give way under the mountain of afflic tion that seemed to rest upon it. But He, without

whose notice not a sparrow falls to the ground, "who feedeth the young ravens when they cry," has also made the never-failing promise to be a Father to the fatherless.

When Wilson was about fifteen years of age, being destitute of the means requisite for his attending school, he appropriated a part of his scanty earnings each week for educational purposes. With this he purchased such publications as are usually attractive to boys of that age, and employed his young associates to read to him during their leisure hours. A few years subsequent to this time, desiring a more lucrative employment, he chose that of an itinerant dealer; but he found this occupation ill adapted to his circumstances.

"The want of sight," says he in his memoir, "made it difficult for me to steer my course aright, and I was often exposed both to hardships and danger. Many a time have I heard the thunder roll over my head, and felt the teeming rain drench me from head to foot, while I have unknowingly passed by a place of shelter, or stood like a statue, not knowing which way to turn, though within a few paces of a house. Still, however, while reflecting on all these circumstances, and on the sympathy which I was sure to meet with after my sufferings, I have been often led to conclude that the balance was in my favor, when compared with many who enjoyed the use of every sense. There is no rose without its thorn, neither is there any state without its comforts."

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