Contents:
  1. Introduction
  2. The Road to Dartmouth
  3. Scholarly Pursuits
  4. Writings and Speeches
  5. Room and Board
  6. Friendships
  7. The United Fraternity
  8. Phi Beta Kappa
  9. The Dartmouth Gazette
  10. Political Activity
  11. Commencement
  12. Conclusion
  13. A Note on Sources

The Dartmouth Gazette

On August 27, 1799, Moses Davis of Hanover, New Hampshire published the first issue of the Dartmouth Gazette. Numbered among its contributors was Daniel Webster. Earlier that month, Webster, having heard about Davis' plans, wrote him and offered his services. Webster later reminisced, "I even paid my board, for a year, by superintending a little weekly newspaper, & making selections for it, from books of literature, & from the contemporary publications. I suppose I sometimes wrote a foolish paragraph myself" (Wiltse 10). These contributions were usually under the pseudonym "Icarus." Indeed, the trend at the time was for pieces to go largely unattributed, save for a pseudonym or perhaps an enigmatic initial.

Webster's contributions were almost exclusively located in a section of the Gazette entitled "Seat of the Muses." These were most often poems, bearing the "Icarus" attribution. A number of these poems were dedicated to the various seasons of the year. His works also included short pieces, sometimes incorporating verse but not always, on topics such as Charity, Fear and Hope.

Webster's contributions could be sporadic, often to the humored notice of the Editor. A section entitled "To Correspondents" contained messages from Davis to his various contributors. On October 21, 1799, there is pleasure with Webster's contributions, evinced in the statement:
"W. Icarus, Tom Twigum &c. have all an invitation to continue in well doing.
Webster, however, did not seem to think he was sufficiently meeting his duties. In the introduction to a piece on "Charity" which appeared in that very same issue, Webster writes:
Icarus sends his compliments to Mr. Davis, and would inform him that his wings are not so fusible as he would imagine; that he is now returned from one of his eccentric flights, and sensible of his error in not punctually fulfilling his engagements...
This apology, though, might have been best saved for later, as February 10, 1800 sees Davis writing the following:
Icarus is reminded of his obligation to the Editor. We wish some of our writers would rouse him from his present state of lethargy.
Webster began contributing again in April, but then several months passed and the Editor seemed to pose the question that Webster had answered earlier:
Icarus, where art thou? Have the sun beams of July and August fused thy wings?
"Icarus" returned to the Gazette on December 6, with a letter defending the politics of the Federalist party. He followed it with a poem dedicated to Winter on December 18. The poem promises to be continued, but never is. This prompts the following exhortation by Davis:
Icarus, was telling a few weeks ago of "continuing" to harp upon "Winter" - But as winter had seen fit virtually to leave us, Icarus has rightly judged it proper to continue silently. If a distich of his would help us to a few inches of snow, he would be paid for it.

The Gazette had a strong Federalist leaning, and the death of George Washington in January of 1800 provided the paper with several weeks' worth of material, eulogizing Washington at length and printing detailed descriptions of his funeral. Although the Gazette reported on local matters, it did not often report on the activities of Dartmouth College or its students. However, the paper ran an ad for two weeks advertising its sale of copies of Webster's Fourth of July Oration of 1800, delivered before the town of Hanover. These sold for 12 1/2 cents each. Davis also published Webster's Funeral Oration on Ephraim Simonds.

Webster's last association with the Gazette while at College came with his graduation. The Gazette reported not only on the Commencement ceremony in which he received his degree, but also mentioned his oration on "the influence of Opinion" before Dartmouth's United Fraternity. Webster's association with the Dartmouth Gazette was a sporadic one which perhaps suited him well, but seems to have been a source of mild consternation for Davis. However, there is a tone of good humor underlying communication between Davis and "Icarus," and it seems likely that they maintained good relations throughout Webster's association with the Gazette.



Return to Daniel Webster Index