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with great cordiality, as they had probably heard of his trials on their account, and knew his general reputation and character; and in order to testify their high gratification, many of them spelled the word "glad" on their fingers.
In November, 1818, less than a year afterward, he received a pressing invitation to become professor of chemistry in William and Mary College, in Virginia. The salary proposed was much larger than he had hitherto been accustomed to receive. But after consulting with the directors of the asylum, and with God and his own conscience, he declined the appointment. This I regard as a triumph of principle, which did bim much honor. It proved, moreover, to be the turning point of his life.
Though his duties were sufficiently arduous and numerous at the asylum, he sometimes preached on the Sabbath-in general, I believe, gratuitously-in various places in and about Hartford. He had been licensed to preach by the North Association of Connecticut, February 2d, 1819.
This attempt to go beyond the field which Divine Providence had opened for him at the asylum, was doubtless an error; though Mr. Woodbridge is not the first good man who has broken himself down by endeavoring to do too much. But he had been admonished already. Constitutional feebleness, to say nothing of dyspeptic and nervous tendencies, had been a serious interruption to his theological studies; and had not been without influence in the decision of the great question whether or not he should become a foreign missionary.
In the progress of the summer of 1820, his health began to give way so as in a great measure to unfit him for his duties. It should be observed, however, that in addition to his ordinary routine of labor in the asylum, and such other extra duties as from his great conscientiousness, he may have been led to engage in, some of which I have already mentioned, it is highly probable he had begun, before this time, the preparation of his Rudiments of Geography. For though nothing is said, in his journal, which would lead to this conclusion, yet we know that as early as in the beginning of the year 1822 this work was finished, and considerable progress made with the larger work, the Universal Geography.
They who know any thing about the preparation of an elementary school-book on a science which they are teaching as enthusiastically as Mr. Woodbridge taught geography to deaf mutes in Hartford, will understand the exhaustion which accompanies it, and will not be surprised that his health materially suffered. In fact he was so far reduced, that by about the middle of the year 1820, both he and
his friends were much alarmed for his safety; and, together with his medical counselors, were urging a voyage to Europe, as the most probable means of his restoration. In October, 1820, he accordingly sailed for the south of Europe. A gentleman who accompanied him
of him : “ In the intervals of a severe and depressing dyspeptic disorder, he displayed his devotion to the conscientious and philanthropic course which he afterward adopted, in the spirit of a missionary ; often directing conversation to subjects which he afterward prosecuted to a great degree. He was one of the first passengers then known, who had attempted to practice religious services at sea. Among others of his experiments that might be mentioned, while crossing from Gibraltar to Algesiras, he once engaged a motley company of Spaniards, Moors, &c., in an animated and interesting conversation in the language of natural signs."
In this first voyage to Europe, and in efforts there for the recovery of his health, he spent about eight months. During this time he was in Palermo, Naples, Leghorn, Rome, and other Italian cities; and although amid scenes of war and confusion, he not only gained in health, but accumulated much geographical knowledge; an object which he had no doubt kept in view from the very
conception of the journey.
Mr. Woodbridge returned to Hartford July 4th, 1821, with his health partially restored. The autumn appears to have been spent in perfecting his Rudiments of Geography, and in completing the Universal Geography; which last was published in 1824. To these two great works he devoted his whole physical and mental energies for more than two years.
The friends of education who read this sketch, hardly need be told that up to this period, geography as a science, had received but little attention in the public schools of New England; with the exception of a few more favored of the larger schools, spelling, reading, and writing, were nearly all the branches that received special attention. A little arithmetic was taught here and there, but even this was for the most part crowded into the evening. The master, as parents supposed, had no time for it by day, without interfering with his other studies; and they sometimes formally and sagely voted “ cyphering" out of the school. As for geography, some few schools studied Morse; a few others used as a sort of reading book, Nathaniel Dwight's “System of Geography,” which was arranged in the form of question and answer. The vast majority, however, paid no attention whatever to the subject.
But, Mr. Woodbridge, while instructing the deaf mutes at Hartford, and perhaps yet earlier had hit upon an improved plan of teaching, which is now too well known, as incorporated into most of our school geographies, to need description. A similar method, had also been pursued by Mrs. Emma Willard of the Troy Female Seminary. Both these teachers were preparing their plans of teaching for publication, unknown to each other; but Mrs. Willard was at length induced to merge her own work in that of Mr. Woodbridge.
Woodbridge & Willard's Geographies produced a revolution in the method of teaching this useful science, wherever it had been taught before; and by their simple and interesting system of classification, were a means of introducing this science in many schools where it had not then been taught. And if others have reaped a large measure of the pecuniary emolument to which these authors seem to have been justly entitled, it is a thing by no means new or unheard of. It is but the fate of most discoverers. Some men, it is true, meet it with more resolution than others, according, in fact, to their various force of bodily constitution. Yet if Columbus, with his gigantic mental and physical energies, was so broken down by it, that his hair was white at thirty years of age, it should hardly excite surprise in any who know how feeble Mr. Woodbridge was at that time to learn, that his health was not a little impaired by the ill treatment which he received at the hands of his cotemporaries. It is certainly true that some of the works which were regarded by many as being stolen from Woodbridge & Willard, contained sundry improvements, but this was to have been expected. It must be a consolation, however, to his friends, at the present day, to know that his works still have an existence, and are regarded by not a few teachers, as preferable to any of their successors. It is also a still greater consolation to believe that the study and preparation of these works, led to his subsequent efforts in educational improvement.
In April, 1824, he thus writes: "My geography is nearly completed, and it becomes a serious question what course I shall now pursue." Unfitted as he was by ill health for teaching and the pulpit, it is not to be wondered at that such a question should arise in his mind; nor that he should think seriously of visiting England, Scotland, France, Germany, and Switzerland, with the view of improving himself in the science of general education, and particularly in his favorite department, that of geography.
It was not so common in those days to try to run away from dyspupsia as it now is; and yet such things had occasionally been done. Mr. Woodbridge's partial success in visiting the south of Europe, had
encouraged him, and raised the hopes of his medical advisers. They recommended another European voyage. Their prescription was not without its charms. It would give him a fine opportunity, among other things, to hold converse with many wise men, not only in Great Britain, but on the continent. It would also enable him to visit schools, and perfect himself in the great work of educational reform which it is believed he had already dared to meditate.
The first year of his absence, during which his health was comparatively good, was spent in arranging for the publication of his small geography in London, and in securing means of supporting himself; he also succeeded in introducing improvements into the instruction of two of the deaf and dumb institutions of England. In the autumn of 1825, a relapse into ill health obliged him to seek southern Europe. Here he grew strong again; and besides traveling again in France and Italy, he spent three months at Hofwyl, by invitation of M. de Fellenberg, as visitor and instructor. Here his health failed once more, and he went to Paris, January 1827, to correct a new edition of his large geography. He accomplished this work with some difficulty, owing to his declining strength. He gradually gave up the use of animal food, and adopted a spare diet almost entirely farinaceous. In October he went to Rome for the winter, traveling very slowly, and being forced by an attack of lumbago to stop at a private hospital at Lyons, where he grew comparatively well again, and proceeded to Rome in December. In July of 1828, he proceeded again to Switzerland, where he remained at Hofwyl, studying the system of Pestalozzi, until May, 1829. He then went to Frankfort, remained there studying the school institutions of southern Germany until July, proceeded to Brussels to investigate Jacotot's system, and reached Paris at the beginning of August, much better than when he had departed thence.
In the autumn of 1829 he sailed from Havre for New York; having been the first American geographer to travel abroad for the sake of collecting materials to enrich his works; and having made many valuable acquaintances both in England and on the continent, including Lord Brougham, Lady Byron, Dr. Chalmers, Dr. Andrew Thompson, M. de Fellenberg, Baron Humboldt, Pestalozzi, &c.
Besides the labor which he bestowed upon his geographical investigations, he was also intent upon obtaining such a knowledge of the general state of education as would enable him to devote himself to its improvements at home, amid a multitude of difficulties both on account of ill health, and a want of pecuniary resources, such as would have deterred and discouraged most men.
Soon after his return to this country, he visited Hartford, for the purpose of rousing the attention of such men as the Rev. Mr. Gallaudet, Hon. Henry L. Ellsworth, Dr. John L. Comstock, and the teachers of the American Asylum, to the great importance of improving the condition of education, especially common education, in this country. Indeed, from various remarks made by him soon after I first met him, in the spring of 1830, I am inclined to the opinion that he was not wholly without the hope of enlisting the friends of education at the asylum and elsewhere, in a scheme to establish a school for teachers in Hartford ; and perhaps of finding among the men of wealth in that city a second Fellenberg. But his ill health was an insurmountable barrier to any decisive results, as well as to that speedy return to Europe, wbich he had been meditating. The latter project he at length wholly relinquished. He probably found the improvement of his geographies, in order to keep pace with the advances of the science, would be likely to require all his bodily and mental energies, as well as all his pecuniary resources.
For educational efforts, however, the time was interesting and auspicious. During Mr. Woodbridge's absence in Europe, beginning with about the year 1825, that movement had arisen among the friends of education in the United States, of which Mr. Gallaudet's newspaper articles advocating special training for common school teachers; the early efforts of Hawley Olmstead, Rev. Samuel J. May, Hon. R. M. Sherman, A. F. Wilcox, Josiah Holbrook, A. Bronson Alcott, and William A. Alcott, in Connecticut: the organization of the Hartford Society for the Improvement of Common Schools; the early writings of James G. Carter, Rev. S. R. Hall, and others in Massachusetts; and the publication of the American Journal of Education, by William Russell, were parts and active stimulants.
The Society for the Improvement of Common Schools held several meetings at Hartford and New Haven, soon after Mr. Woodbridge's return; and so far as his health permitted, be exerted in them an active influence. At some of these meetings, it fell to the lot of the writer of this article to lecture on improvements in the construction of school houses, and kindred topics. The lecture on school houses was afterward sent to the American Institute of Instruction, and in 1830 a prize was awarded to it. The interest Mr. Woodbridge took in the subject and in the manner of treating it, resulted in an intimate acquaintance, and in a conjunction as friends of the same cause.
Another fact deserves to be mentioned. It has already been stated that the father of Mr. Woodbridge was a teacher. He was connect