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the loss of an associate, and valued officer.* Mr. Peck's injunction should not be considered as expressive of his disapprobation of a custom, highly important in such an institution. No such opportunities should be lost of impressing on the minds of youth, the value of a virtuous and honourable, literary and scientifick life.—To Mr. Peck's personal character alone this dread, even of posthumous praise, is to be ascribed : and in the short account of his blameless life, which it may be permitted to one of his earliest friends to give, as a very feeble expression of tenderness and respect, the causes of this uncommon fear of exciting publick attention will be perceived. It is not, however, from private feelings alone, that this brief sketch of Mr. Peck's biography is presented. The institution of which he was a member, and the state of which he was a distinguished citizen, have a claim to the just praise of his talents and knowledge, which he was too diffident to permit to be noticed ; and we have a right to make this sacrifice of private duty, for higher and more important objects.
There was nothing about Mr. Peck's life or character, which could furnish the materials of a highly wrought picture; nothing which would address itself to the passions or the imagination. It was simply the example of an unaided and retired individual, struggling, during the greater period of his life, against every discouragement, upborne by his genius and love of study, and constantly
* Mr. P. was seized with his last illness, which was a third attack of hemiplegia, on the night of the 10th of September preceding his death. His powers of utterance were gone, but those of his understanding seemed not in the least affected. He was at once impressed with the conviction, that it was to be his last sickness, and the next morning wrote with a pencil, “no funeral, no eulogy;" thus exhibiting, to the last, that aversion to parade, which was always a distinguished feature of his character. It seems not improbable that he was moved, in this instance, by the remembrance that the funeral obsequies of his valued friend and associate, Levi Frisbie, A. M. Alford Professor of Natural Religion, Moral Philosophy, and Civil Polity, had then lately been attended, with all the respect which was due to the memory of that excellent
A very just and impressive Eulogy was delivered on that occasion, in the chapel of the University by Mr. Norton, Dexter Professor of Sacred Literature. It is not necessary to add, that due regard was paid to this dying request of Mr. P. He was privately entombed, without any of those ceremonies usual on similar occasions, and which would doubtless have been affectionately observed, in this instance, by every member of the University.
adding new stores to a powerful mind, capable of comprehending all that it received from reading and observation, and of analyzing, arranging and preserving it.
Mr. Peck was admitted Bachelor of Arts at Cambridge in 1782.* He was destined for commercial pursuits, and passed a regular apprenticeship in the compiing house of the late Hon. Mr. Russell. His exactitude and industry acquired for him the confidence and lasting friendship of that distinguished merchant.†
Mr. Peck's father was a man of very great genius in the mechanick arts. He was the most scientifick, as well as the most successful naval architect, which the United States had then produced. The ships built by him were so superiour to any then known, that he attracted the attention of Congress, and was employed by them to build some of their ships of war. But his talents did not bring him that pecuniary reward, which all who knew the superiority of his skill have admitted was his due; and, disgusted with the world, he retired to a small farm in Kittery, resolved that his models, founded, as his son always affirmed, on mathematical calculations, should never be possessed by a country, which had treated him with so much ingratitude. I
* While an undergraduate, Mr. P. was considered as among the most respectable of his class, making it his rule to give the needful application to every prescribed study : and while he was distinguished for his classical attainments, he also at that period discovered an attachment to those branches of Natural History, his progress in which so much occupied and delighted him through life. It was remarkable of him that although it was a fixed principle of his conduct, by a strict conformity to the laws and regulations of the College, to retain the favourable opinion of every member of the government; at the same time, by the uniform courtesy of his deportinent, and his habitual kindness, he equally possessed the respect and good will of the un. dergraduates.
+ It was in conformity to his father's wishes, that Mr. Peck received a mer. canlile education. His own predilections were for the profession of medicine ; and after the removal of the family to Kittery, he made application to Dr. Bracket, to be received as his pupil. The writer of this has been informed, that the doctor, having at the time the number of students allowed by the rules of the faculty to be taken by one physician, was on that account obliged to decline the proposal. On circumstances so trivial in themselves, ofien depend the complexion and whole course of a man's after life.
# These models the son preserved, with the most scrupulous attention and care, to his death, believing that they must one day be duly valued, and come into general use. He once received the offer of a very handsome sum of
The failure of the father's schemes defeated Professor Peck's prospects as a merchant; and, at an early age, he too imbibed not a little of his father's discontentment with the world, (a very pardonable errour in a young man, who venerated bis father's talents and virtues,) and retired to the same obscure village, to pass the whole of that period of life, which nature has designed should be the most active.
During nearly twenty years Professor Peck led the most ascetick and secluded life, seldom emerging from his hermitage.* But his mind, so far from being inactive, was assiduously and intensely devoted to the pursuits, to which the bent of his genius and taste inclined him. At a time when he could find no companion, nor any sympathy in his studies, except from the venerable Dr. Cutler of Hamilton, who was devoted to one branch of them, botany, Mr. Peck made himself, under all the disadvantages of very narrow means, and the extreme difficulty of procuring bocks, an able and profound botanist and entomologist. But his studies were not confined to these two departments only. In zoology, ornithology and ichthyology, his knowledge was more extensive than that of any other individual in this part of the United States, and perhaps in the nation.t
money for them, from one of our most intelligent, enterprising and successful merchants. This offer he declined accepting, avowing as the reason, his wish that the government of the United States might first avail itself of the principles, in the construction of national ships. It is believed that he once communicated this wish to some member of the government, froni which, however, nothing resulted. The models, together with many drawings, yet remain : but it is to be feared that the professor's knowledge of the principles on which they were formed, will be found requisite to the full understanding and use of them.
Though Mr. Peck undoubtedly sy nipathized in the chagrin felt by his father, he never indulged 10 misan:hropick feelings. On the contrary, he made occasional visits to Boston, and there enjoyed in a high degree the society of many friends, by whom he was respected and beloved. He also made frequent excursions to Portsmouth, where he found those who were alive to his merits, and who assisted by their attentions to enliven his sequestered life The late worthy Dr. Bracket, before named, and his excellent lady, ever welcomed him to their hospitable mansion as a beloved son ; and so long as they lived to bless and adorn the society in which they inoved, they contributed all in their power, and this was very much, to his comfort and enjoyment.
† During Mr Peck's residence at Kittery, and two or three years that he lived in a delightful spot in Newbury, where the river Artichoke joins the
One trait in his character ought here to be noticed ; and the more so, because the opposite defect is the most prevailing one in our country.—What he did know, or attempt to study, he studied profoundly; and if his knowledge failed in extent, it was in all cases owing to want of health or means. To those who knew him well, before his removal from his obscurity to Cambridge, it appeared astonishing how, with advantages so slender, and under discouragements so chilling, he could have acquired so much.
It was principally with a view to draw this learned and indefatigable labourer of natural history from his retreat, that the subscription for a Professorship of Natural History at Cambridge was commenced. This has once been denied : but the writer of this article, and one of his friends, having been the most active circulators of the subscription, and fully and entirely acquainted with its origin, knew it to be true. Mr. Peck was elected by the subscribers the first professor:* and it is due to his memory to say, that he resisted the first solicitations most feelingly, and with great zeal. He desired his friends to recollect the hermit life he had led ; and that, at so advanced a period, after habits of seclusion had been so long rooted, it would be impossible for him to come forth into active life, and to give to his favourite pursuits all the interest, and the charms of eloquence, of which they are susceptible; but which he feared he was not qualified to do.
But his friends, who wished the country to do an act of tardy justice to merit so long neglected, would not listen to his objections, and compelled him to accept the appointment. The Board of Visitors wished him to visit the scientifick establishments of Europe, with which he complied. Having been with him during a part of that tour, we are enabled to state confidently, that he was re
Merrimack, prior to his removal to Cambridge, he made a most beautiful col. lection of the insects with which our country abounds, with many fine preser; vations of aquatick planıs, and of the more rare species of fishes to be found on our coast, and in our rivers and lakes.
* March 27th, 1805.
ceived by the men of science in England and France as a brother, and his merit was highly appreciated.*
Mr. Peck inherited his father's taste for mechanical philosophy, and as an artist he was incomparable. His most delicate instruments, in all his pursuits, were the products of his own skill and handicraft. We shall never forget the astonishment of one of the first opticians of London, when Mr. Peck requested him to supply a glass, which had been lost out of a microscope made by himself,—nor the warm friendship he discovered for him, when he was satisfied that he was so able a self-instructed artist.t
But Professor Peck's knowledge and taste were not confined to natural history and mechanicks. We are aware that, with some men, these qualifications are considered of secondary merit. Mr. Peck had that delicate tact as to every subject of taste, which all men admit to be the proof of superior genius. He was a good classical scholar; more correct than many, who make higher pretensions to it. He was truly and deeply a lover and a correct judge of the fine arts. He was fond of painting, and sculpture, and architecture ; without professing to have skill in them. No man, who ever saw the exquisite accuracy and fidelity, with which he sketched the subjects of his peculiar pursuits, in entomology or botany, could doubt the refinement of his taste.
Of his character in social life, -of his virtues, -we are disposed to follow his own wishes, and to leave them to the recollection of a few friends, who knew him intimately. They were of that pure, and simple, and sincere, and unaffected character, which such a life, devoted to
* Mr. P. was three years absent on this tour. His longest stay was in Swoeden. To hiin, the country that gave birth to Linnæus was classick ground. Ďuring his absence he collected a valuable library of books connected with the subjects of his professorship, and which belong to the foundation; together with many exquisite preservations of natural subjects, and rare specimens of art, many of which were presented to himn by the scholars and men of science in Europe, with whom he formed an acquaintance in his travels.
+ His favourite exercise and amusement was with his lathe ; and he has left some fine specimens of turning, executed by him after he had wholly lost the use of one of his hands.