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Dartmouth College Library Bulletin

'This Passion for Books': Sanborn and the College in 1850


I live, academically speaking, in Sanborn House, a fact that helps relate me to Virginia Close. For the building goes back to 1928, when Edwin Webster Sanborn, Class of 1878, died and left his entire estate to Dartmouth College, directing that Sanborn House be built to memorialize his father, Edwin David Sanborn, Class of 1832, a longtime teacher at Dartmouth and the first to hold a chair and an appointment specifically in English literature.

There is something very special about the relationship of Sanborn père to libraries. We think of his 'house,' going up in 1929, which was integrated with the construction of Baker Library, and contained its own library for English majors (now a unit of the overall College Library system). Furthermore, Professor Sanborn was the last faculty member to hold an appointment as College librarian as an extra duty from 1868 to 1874. Partly as a result of his complaints about the inadequacy of the library at that time, the Trustees appointed, in 1874, the first full-time College librarian, Clarence W. Scott. Finally, when the College was able to build Wilson Hall as its first real library building, Professor Sanborn was there, in 1884, at the laying of the cornerstone, to comment on the significance of the deed. He died the next year.

The case could even be made that the life of Professor Sanborn at Dartmouth is what 'caused' not only Wilson Hall, but Rollins Chapel, to be built-more about that later. Is it not appropriate, then, to honor Virginia Close by recalling something of the life of our mutual benefactor, who is at once the patron saint of English studies and of libraries at Dartmouth?

The theme of what is to be recalled from that life is passion, or, more accurately, a passion among passions, an intellectual passion set amidst acres of country passions, drawing out the coarser into the finer, inspiring and leading unruly rustic souls towards a kind of rural urbanitas. As we shall see, it was his passion, or some similar word, that made Professor Sanborn most memorable to his students, and it was, most particularly, his passion for books that provides the golden chain that will connect this narrative. He told his wife once that he had been too busy on the farm as a boy to learn any sports, adding 'I have never yet learned any of them-all that I wanted was a good book to make me happy night or day.' (1) As Mrs. Sanborn observed, 'This passion for books proved the key-note of his life-a never-satisfied craving for books-a worshipper-a devourer of their contents, with a quick digestion of their most wholesome parts.'(p. 4)

Like the majority of young men who came to Dartmouth in 1828, Edwin David Sanborn was the son of a New Hampshire farmer. After graduating in 1832, he, like many others, did some teaching and then directed himself towards the study of law. Like a few others, he then turned towards the ministry and entered Andover Theological Seminary in 1834. But his own unique career was determined when he left Andover and came to Dartmouth in 1835 as a tutor in Latin and Greek (he was never to earn an advanced degree). Soon after, the Trustees would designate him associate professor of Latin and Greek, and then, in 1849, Professor of Latin Language and Literature. From 1859 to 1863 he did try a new direction, teaching Latin at Washington University, St. Louis; but Dartmouth was able to bring him back, appointing him professor of oratory and belles-lettres in 1863. He would finish his career by teaching twenty more years at Dartmouth, inaugurating the Winkley Professorship of Anglo-Saxon and English Language and Literature in 1880. Ill health caused his retirement in 1882, at the age of seventy-four.

I have said that Sanborn was the College librarian for a few years. Truth be told, he was almost everything for a few years, or longer, over the course of his forty-four years at Dartmouth. In modern terms, he was a one-man university, acting informally as dean, counsellor, chaplain, and registrar. For a time he was the official inspector of buildings; he served the faculty for many years as its secretary. Furthermore, he was licensed to preach by the Congregational Conference of New Hampshire, and frequently supplied area pulpits; he was an examiner in schools all over northern New England; and he was a figure in state politics and served several times in the legislature. It is no wonder that 'bully Sanborn' had such a mighty reputation as a teacher of influence, and as a representative of the spirit of 'Old Dartmouth.'

Fig. 2. Edwin David Sanborn
There are several reasons why it is useful to focus on the particular year, 1850, in discussing the life of Sanborn and his College. In its eightieth year, the College could still look back and touch the formative events and persons of its founding-Daniel Webster, the Dartmouth College case, and even Eleazar Wheelock, not to mention the American Revolution: These were still in the category of 'yesterday,' not the remote past; and the College now took the image sharply and distinctly of what would come to be called 'Old Dartmouth.' Indeed, 'Old Dartmouth' had been Dartmouth-in-some-danger-of-shrinking-away, for the school was only gradually lifting itself out of what its historians call a 'depression.' (2) Its all-male student body was regional, and most graduates expected to enter preaching, teaching, law, or medicine. There was of course no formal instruction in English or American literature. Figure 1 gives a statistical sketch of Dartmouth in 1850, based on its catalogue. That year the trustees voted to raise tuition to $36.

But there is further reason for looking at Dartmouth in 1850, having to do with the character of Professor Sanborn's professional life as it related to the College and its students, and exercised certain powerful influences that were to have a surprising and gratifying outcome in later years with respect to books and libraries. We can, with the gift of hindsight, see what those influences were, and how and where they did their work. We shall see what becomes of that 'passion for books,' expressed through a passionate academic sensibility, and working on and through the passions of sturdy, resistant, resilient, and, in certain gratifying cases, nobly responsive young men.

Professor Edwin David Sanborn was forty-two in 1850, and, gauging from his appearance and his activities, in the prime of life (see Figure 2). (3) He had been in the legislature in 1849 and 1850; at the Grafton County Agricultural Fair in 1849, he was the speaker, on the topic of improving the profession of farming, and he spoke in the same vein at Orford, in September 1850, at the Connecticut River Agricultural Society, and in October, at Claremont, at the Sullivan county fair. In 1850, the Concord Railway came to White River Junction, and he gave a speech there on the history of transportation. Upon the death that year of President Zachary Taylor, Sanborn's eulogy, 'delivered by request of the students at Dartmouth College,' was widely noted and approved. In 1850, he would represent Hanover at the state's constitutional convention.

But let us see him in his element, in the very middle of the College's life, in the basement of Dartmouth Hall, 'the chapel' (see Figure 3). (4) In the wry words of Professor Bartlett: 'The room was shaped like a well-proportioned packing case. The interior might be described as wholly nave-ish . . . .The atmosphere, fragrant with the prayers of good men, was also saturated with the microbes of deviltry.' (5) Here are the reminiscences of Henry Fairbanks, Class of 1853 (who later became a professor at Dartmouth, and a trustee):

I remember, the first morning of the spring term of [1850], going through the storm to [the old chapel]. The walls bare, with the remains of partly erased charcoal sketches, the wood-work painted a dirty white, so sticky that it had been growing more dirty until in places it was black, all whittled and pencilled; -President Lord and Professor SANBORN showing dimly through the smoke that made our eyes smart intolerably, and was the only sign of fire, -for the snow that sifted through the broken panes lay unmelted; -students in cloaks that partly concealed their deficiencies in toilet, having left their beds only six minutes before, rushing in at half-past six; -the Freshmen seated conveniently next the door to invite the Sophomore rush;6 -barbarian surroundings at a barbarous hour, doing the utmost to make barbarians, and this in the name and form of a religious service. It is proof of the wonderful gifts of President Lord that under such difficulties anything of a religious power and impressiveness was secured. (7)

Fig. 4. Dartmouth Row, 1851
Barbarians in barbarian surroundings-'in deserto' they were, out in the wilderness in a crude campus that still amounted to little more than the four buildings on the Row (Figure 4). (8) Obviously, there was no computer network, no language lab, no intercollegiate athletics, no tennis court, no golf course; and of course there was no hospital, no airport, no automobiles, no highways; but there was also no electricity, running water, sewer, or central heating for any building. On the other hand, such conditions would not have struck these farm boys as particularly remarkable. As John Ordronaux, Class of 1850, somewhat grandly put it:
Most of the Dartmouth students of our day were not the pampered sons of rich, ostentatious parents. They were farmers' boys, brought up in the simplicity and virtuous atmosphere of rural homes. . . . Reared in small Sabine farms they were inured to the discipline and hardships of stated labors. (9)
And the guardians of the College, who surely included Professor Sanborn, felt these harsh circumstances were but a part of the regimen of discipline which would bring awkward bodies and unwieldy minds into some semblance of spiritual order. John Ordronaux, fifty years later, would absolutely agree:
Men were taught that there was a sleepless eye above them and a militant world to be encountered. They were made to feel that the College was a moral training school for the conscience, as well as a gymnasium for the mind; that life was a contest not of chance, but of pre-destined law against natural adversaries who never forgive a false move. This was the trend of our education under the sovereign rule of President Lord. (p. 10)
Professor Sanborn, as inspector of buildings, was the one who started the stove that cold spring morning; President Nathan Lord it would have been who led the prayers. He was fifty-eight in 1850. As his grandson, John King Lord, wrote:
He had an extraordinary gift in prayer by which those who were not given to praying were affected, as when a student said: 'I like to hear Dr. Lord pray, I like to hear him say: "The Lord bless these young men, every one of them," for then I feel safe for the day.' (10)
But it went much further than prayers, as King explained:
The service of morning and evening prayers in the chapel which he conducted when in town, the Monday morning biblical exercise with the senior class, which he took during his entire presidency, the instruction in the department of ethics of which he had the entire charge for eleven years, and occasionally the pulpit were all used to exalt the worth and enforce the claims of Christian character. (p. 329)
As Ordronaux wrote, 'It was this Puritan training of Dr. Lord which, while it held us to our tasks in the grinding mills of his Academic Athens, still kept our windows open towards Jerusalem.' (Report, p. 12).

Most of the faculty were clergymen. When the Trustees brought Daniel J. Noyes to the College in 1850 to become Phillips Professor of Theology (at $900 per annum ), their expectations were clear but unexceptional: He was to lecture on systematic theology and to instruct the classes 'in ethical and theological branches.' His religious sentiments were to be 'in accordance with the compends of Christian Doctrine set forth by the Westminster Assembly of Divines in their Shorter Catechism.' (11) Within this context, it is only natural that Professor Sanborn would sum up the obligations of a teacher as follows:

It is not the general who plans a skilful siege or makes a successful assault upon a beleaguered city, or the statesman who, by subtle diplomacy, overreaches a neighboring state, that most deserves our admiration and reverence, but he who can instruct and enlighten his fellow men, who can dissuade them from low and sensual indulgence, and, by his precept and example, make them more holy and more happy. The true teacher is he, who aims to fit men to live well and to die in peace. (12)
So what seems to characterize the world of learning at Dartmouth in 1850 is the presence of a yawning gulf between the ideal program of holiness and the facts of low and sensual undergraduate indulgence. There is no better way of seeing what this amounted to than by looking through the weekly faculty minutes of this period-they are in the hand of Professor Sanborn, who was clerk from 1836 to 1851. The faculty, essentially a body of teaching clergymen, knew the double charge of minds and souls. The Laws of Dartmouth, published in 1849, makes this charge very clear:
[I]t is particularly and earnestly recommended that [the faculty] exercise, as far as possible, a parental authority over the students; that they use all fit occasions to engage the common sentiment on the side of virtue; to discourage the concealment of crime. (13)
The word, 'crime,' may seem startling, but the Laws have a sub-section headed 'Crimes and Misdemeanors':
No student shall purchase, or have in his room, any spiritous or vinous liquor, or play at cards, dice, or any unlawful game, or keep fire-arms or gun-powder in his room without permission or fire gun-powder in or near the College premises, or meet with any forbidden club or society. (p. 11)
And then note this additional paragraph:
The Faculty shall have authority to visit and search the room of any student; to use force, if necessary, and to assess all damage occasioned by any violation of the laws, upon the offender. (p. 11)
We now have a context for the disciplinary aspect of the faculty minutes, and can imagine both the beasts and their tamers as we read between the lines:
Nov. 10, 1836 -Voted that those individuals who attended a dancing school, during the present term be referred to the President, to be admonished or otherwise dealt with at his discretion.14 July 22, 1839 -Voted that Smith 2d be informed that he may remain, in college, provided he abandon his cups, his cigars, entertainments & vicious associates. September 13, 1842 -Voted that Brigham, Juniors Gale, Chase, & Webster 2d be called up, by the President, & questioned respecting the fowls that were found in the freshman recitation room on the last sabbath. November 28, 1845 -voted that Barstow be put on probation & his father be informed of his profanity, noise, and participation in driving turkeys into the chapel. [Disciplinary messages home were routinely referred to 'the father.'] October 2, 1849 -voted that Junior Bartlett's father be informed of his habitual neglect of college duties. Voted that Junior Bartlett be required to remove the piano from his room. September 3, 1850 -Voted that the President converse with Kinsman respecting his violence, at the chapel, in assaulting Freshman Burnham. May 9, 1850 -Voted that the President inquire of Senior Chamberlain respecting his attack on Soph. Jones & his profane language at the table before his fellow boarders. September 23, 1850 -Soph. Ingalls having been allowed to return to college on the strictest probation, & having absented himself from college duties eight times, during the past week, & having been engaged in throwing stones into the chapel while the students were assembling for prayers, therefore voted that he be separated from college. October 23, 1850 -Senior Proctor having been engaged, at different times, in disturbances in D. Hall, in breaking the walls by rolling [cannon]balls etc in the spaces, having been frequently absent from college duties and having furnished intoxicating drinks, by which Junior Morse was made drunk [Morris was previously on probation, but now had been 'removed from college']. Voted that he be sent to his father. September 15, 1851 -Voted, that the petition of the seniors to have time for a squirrel hunt, be not granted.
One wonders what the conduct of these Faculty meetings would have sounded like -- were they punctuated with bursts of laughter? One supposes not, yet it is hard not to think that Professor Sanborn might have had to suppress many a (slightly grim) smile. When Edwin D. Bartlett (no apparent relation to 'Junior Bartlett') looked back at these collegiate times he applied a quotation from Lytton Strachey: '[W]riting of Eton at the time when Arnold became Head Master of Rugby, 1828, [he] says its government was "a system of anarchy tempered by despotism"'. (15) For a fuller sense of how that despotism worked, and how in 1850 that anarchy almost rushed the College over the edge into chaos, we have an usual combination of judgments and narrative:
April 20, 1850. A.M.- Barton having been detected last evening or night in blowing horns . . . [Voted, that he] be sent to his father during the pleasure of the faculty. (16) April 26, 1850 -Whereas Junior Secombe and Foster have been convicted of encouraging and fomenting the late disorders in college and have been exceedingly active in promoting discord in the Junior class & in disseminating principles hostile to the laws of college, therefore, Voted that said Secombe & Foster be separated from College.
There follows this unusually full minute from Professor Sanborn's hand:
For several days prior to April 19th, the peace of college & of the village had been disturbed by horn-blowing in the night & by acts of outrage against the property of the college. Between the hours of 12 & 1 o'clock of the night of the 19th of April, Barton was caught with a horn in his hand. (17) On the 20th of April, Barton was cut off from college. The class immediately met & petitioned for Barton's pardon. At the same meeting, a vote was passed to accompany Barton, on his departure to the [railway]cars, in procession & to write a letter of condolence to his father. The last vote was to be executed, unless the Faculty should grant the petition[.] [A]fter learning these facts, the President by vote of the Faculty, addressed the class upon the great impropriety of the conduct of the class. The class received the address unkindly, voted that the charges of the President were 'unjust, uncalled for & unnecessarily severe' & that an apology was due to the class from the President. Accordingly, as no concessions were made to the class, a portion of the class, led on by Secombe and Foster, accompanied Barton to the cars & huzzaed as he took his seat in the car. On the evening of the same day a large number of students disguised met in front of the college, & blew horns, in concert, for about half an hour. They were provided with sticks and stones. This conduct was justified by Secombe & Foster as a very proper mode of showing their indignation at the unjust treatment of the Faculty. Secombe admitted that he was out, with the mob, while the horns were blown, & declined answering as to his being disguised. Foster refused to answer questions respecting his own participation in the riot. For this conduct & for the avowal of these sentiments, the above names have been separated from college.
The utmost objectivity of Professor Sanborn is remarkable-no expostulations, no sounds of scandal! One looks in vain for tone, for signs of attitude, humorous or otherwise. (I do feel a suspicion of suppressed mirth here, but each person may read differently). (18) At any rate, four days later there appears this entry: April 30, 1850. Mr. Barton having applied for leave for his son to return to college at the beginning of the next term; voted that, he may return, if the father deems it for his highest interest & the son will give to him & to us an assurance of future good conduct.

Fierce in judgment, mild in punishment! (The cynic could possibly observe that the threadbare college could hardly afford to dismiss peremptorily too many of its students, or that sending the criminal home 'to the father' might be regarded by the family as the harshest punishment of all.) The gulf between divine intentions and undergraduate low indulgences may have been deep and constant, and yet was continuously being negotiated with rather little permanent damage. (19) Needless to say, 'horning' and tolling the Dartmouth bell at unholy hours continued to bedevil the faculty for years to come.20 In an essay on Aids to the Study of the Classics (discussed below) Professor Sanborn observed drily, that:

It is a prevailing notion in college, that the ingenious evasion of duty, is quite as good as the faithful performance of it. . . . Some students seem to regard the professor as responsible, both for their good morals and their liberal culture, though they cunningly persist in their efforts to prevent the improvement of either. (p. 33)
Those who remembered Professor Sanborn with affection and admiration give the impression that he daily, even hourly, leaped back and forth across that gulf with inspiriting and indefatigable energy. Hiram Orcutt referred to him as 'the noble man, our drill-teacher in Latin, and the living historical encyclopaedia of the college, whose Christian example, energy, and devotion were a constant inspiration;'21 Lord took the theme of energy further: 'He had a forceful nature, that carried the enthusiasm of a boy into whatever pleased and interested him as a man . . . . His mode of thought, in which the impulsive outweighed the critical, was discursive, and he gave frank expression to his feelings but rarely with offence' (Chase, History of Dartmouth, 2:442-443);22 and Parkhurst wrote that:
Prof. Sanborn was stout in physique, with large head and broad, open face. . . . Touch him on any cognate theme and he would literally pour himself out in torrents. . . . Aroused he was a volcano. He strongly admired the noble in history and literature, and he as strongly loathed and condemned the ignoble. (23)
Finally, in 1921, Charles Adams, Professor of Greek at the College, gave an illustrated talk for the 150th anniversary of the Church of Christ at Dartmouth College; as a member of the Class of 1878, he recalled the presence and the influence of Professor Sanborn, and made again a strong link to 'this passion for books':
He was . . . a great, big, bluff man, interested in everything under the heavens, teaching everything, disguised in my time under the name of English Literature, but at earlier periods under other names, Latin and Greek, for instance; he was no taskmaster for college boys, he knew nothing of system or plans of instruction . . . but Sanborn was full of ideas, full of anecdote . . . and in all ways stimulating and enjoyable, and if a boy cared to read he did find a great deal of sound guidance. (24)
It is possible to come closer to Professor Sanborn, to deduce how he actually worked with his students putting his principles into practice. It is wonderful to hear him, at the end of his career, addressing one of his former students and recalling the practice of academic 'exercises': At the laying of the cornerstone for Wilson Hall in 1884, he gave the response of thanks to Halsey J. Boardman, Class of 1858, the executor of Mr. Wilson's estate, and the one responsible for steering his bequest to the building of a library. Here are his words:
If the whole class of 1858 stood before me, as you now do, I should be tempted to call for a review in some Latin classic. As Tacitus was my favorite author I would call on you, sir, to read, at sight, the orations of Galgacus and Agricola to their assembled warriors on the eve of a great battle. No better speeches were ever spoken or penned. Your classic memory will recall their brevity, terseness and force, and the great difficulty of turning them into good English. They are monumental speeches. But I am not here to test your scholarship. (25)
One wonders if Mr. Boardman was temporarily startled, even alarmed, carried back to morning exercises by the genial but firm voice of his old teacher.

It is easy enough to pick out the continuing elements of the teaching style that are implied here: performance before one's peers, recitation-upon-demand, reading of a great speech in its original tongue, translation into English not only correctly but appropriately, with a constant eye to both grammar and eloquence, the twin disciplines of philology and morality. Sanborn had produced a pamphlet in 1851, Aids to the Study of the Classics , in which he affirmed his basic academic principles: 'If young men would have strong minds, capable of great achievements, they must submit to severe intellectual labor. The only preparation for this work is thorough mental discipline, based upon the constant exercise of one's native powers.'26 And he also said, 'I take it for granted that the study of the dead languages is the best discipline for the student, in the process of developing and maturing his mental faculties.' (p. 46)

The general framework for such instruction is clearly laid out in The Laws of Dartmouth College:

The hours of study are, in the summer months, from eight, and at all other seasons of the year, from nine to twelve o'clock, a.m.; and from two p.m. throughout the year, except the afternoon of Saturday, till prayers. During these hours, and after nine o'clock in the evening, the students are required to be at their rooms, to abstain from all loud conversation, singing, playing on musical instruments, and from all other noise which may cause interruption. (pp. 6-7)
The Laws state that the Library was to be opened one hour a week, for each class, on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, or Friday. Books could be borrowed, one or two per student, and were charged for, from 4 cents to 10 cents, according to the size of the book. The Laws also state that there were to be recitations three times a day, by classes (p. 7). Hence, a 'class' was originally a recitation session attended by all the members of a class, freshman or sophomore, junior or senior.

When we imagine these exercises-with the added senses of military drill and of athletic strain-and imagine the condition, mental state, and nervous state of those young men who had earlier in the day tumbled their smokey way out of the Chapel, we can best understand the evidence that Professor Sanborn has left us of those intimate, challenging, terrifying hours: we turn to a series of summaries of individual students in classes written out by Professor Sanborn in his ledger books, the Index Rerum. (27)

A good place to begin is with that very John Ordronaux who has been quoted so edifyingly above: He is described by Sanborn as 'companiable, fluent, well informed; but given to duplicity and roguery.' At first blush, this seems surprising, dourly negative. One would have liked some prophetic glimpse of the man who was to become an extremely learned scholar.28 On the other hand, it is likely that Ordronaux would have thoroughly approved of such a sharp and severe knowing of the undergraduate soul. Sanborn was doing here exactly what the Laws called for. Some other examples (to which some information has been added from alumni directories and other resources):

E. J. Pierce ['47] is an impulsive, ardent, & passionate youth, with little ballast & large sails. [Attended Union Seminary; commissioned as evangelist to Africa, 1851, American Board for Missions.] Joseph T. O. West ['47] is a perverse, wrong-headed infidel, very obstinate & independent; has superior talents & is not openly vicious. [Harvard Medical School; became a physician.] Samuel H. Willey ['47] is a genteel, smooth, well-meaning man. He is decided in his christian character, not sufficiently punctual. A tolerable scholar. His influence is good. [Union Seminary; became vice president, Oakland College, California; the Rev. Willey, D.D., would write, in 1887, a history of that college.] Arthur F. L. Norris ['47] is a phlegmatic, indolent gigantic lump of clay. His blood moves slowly; his passions are strong; his talents moderate; his scholarship indifferent. He excels in wrestling & athletic exercises. [Practiced law.]
I particularly like the following, which strike me as very canny:
(Anson) Marshall ['48] demagogical, loquacious & ambitious; tho' punctual, studious and correct; a great tobacco chewer. [Went into law with ex-President Pierce; became the U. S. District Attorney for New Hampshire.] George Washington Patterson ['48] intelligent, companionable, kind, without great powers of acquisition or fondness for study[;] peculiar in dress & habits, independent & odd. [Law; president of George Washington Bank, Corning, New York.]
And for present purposes, these final two entries, for two men who could have been caught in that chapel-rush of 1850:
George H. Chadwick ['54] learned less in college, I think, than any man I ever knew in like circumstances. He exhibited a kind of mechanical punctuality & some ability to talk and write; still, his ideas, like angel's visits, were 'few and far between.' He read the languages with less skill when he left than when he entered. His morality was not above reproach. [M.D., New York Medical College, '57; practiced in Portland, Maine.] Charles Augustus Young ['54] uncommonly quick, learning every thing with great facility[;] excitable and playful in recitation, but always prepared better than any one else; in character faultless in piety commendable. [Young entered college at age 16, graduating at the head of his class. He came to teach at Dartmouth in 1865 as Appleton Professor of Natural Philosophy and Professor of Astronomy, and helped establish the Shattuck Observatory. He moved to Princeton in 1872. The Dictionary of American Biography cites him as 'one of the most eminent of American astro-physicists.']
It is not so much how accurate these summaries seem to be-although on the whole, Sanborn's score looks to be very high-but rather how they illustrate just how he 'admired the noble . . . and as strongly loathed and condemned the ignoble.' To read over these private vignettes (the part of no public record, it would seem, and not offered as official statements) is to see what the teacher looked for, and hoped to encourage. For it is clear that he had an appetite for greatness; tolerated the run-of-the-mill; regretted the wasted soul. Passions he met with passion, and also with reason; the struggle was always for order and enlightenment, yet great things needed to be fueled by great enthusiasms. These goals were summarized in his Aids to the Study of the Classics:
The chief object of education, then, so far as professional life is concerned, is to create the ability to think and to speak, to originate plans, and make them known; to devise great enterprises, and persuade others to engage in them. (p. 46)
He might have been looking up from his Index Rerum and thinking of those lives he had summarized, when he mused on his lifetime of teaching upon the occasion of a visit from former students after he had retired: 'Some whom I helped were poor; some were wild. I did lift a good many of the better class out of the mud, and rejoice that I did it, for I have observed that men who achieve great victories are often men of strong passions.' (29)

The man who offered the response of thanks at the cornerstone ceremony for Wilson Hall Library was near the end of his days. A few years earlier his letter of resignation spoke of 'struggling with what now seems to be a mortal disease,' and declared that 'old age and sickness have prevailed against me, have robbed me of my strength and courage and left me exhausted, in body mind and estate.' (30) Perhaps he would have seemed feeble as he stood to speak, yet that is not how his wife describes the scene:

He stood upon the platform in the open air, his head covered with a velvet cap, as protection from the gentle drops of summer rain, and spoke for fifteen minutes (only once glancing at the notes held in his hand), with his old- time ease and eloquence. His commanding presence and choice words, 'fitly spoken,' deeply impressed those who heard him.31
He would not live to see what was to stand on the Wilson cornerstone (see Figure 5), (32) but the vision of the new building and what it would mean was strong before him. Out of a lifetime of books and libraries, he touched on where the College had been, and what it was coming to.

New England colleges, he observed, were founded on the books that clergymen contributed:

So the ministers of Connecticut, at their first meeting in 1700, brought their precious literary treasures in their arms and laid them upon the table of the presiding officer, saying: 'I give these books for the founding of a college in this colony.' ('Response,' p. 27)
But these were very large books, for:
the whole learning of the world was contained in them . . . .The books first given to Dartmouth College were of this description, huge folios, treating de rebus omnibus et quibusdam aliis . Like the match-lock guns, they could not be held out for use without a rest. We have several hundred volumes of these monstrous books. (p. 28)
And then he described a volume, illustrated here at Figure 6:
The most remarkable of these is the Hexapla, or Biblia Sacra Polyglotta, of Bishop Walton, in six folio volumes, containing the entire scriptures, in six parallel columns, in six different languages, with illustrations in nine Oriental tongues, accompanied by copious annotations, table, indices, appendices, various readings from all the languages into which any portions of the scriptures were translated in early times. This work, as late as 1843, was pronounced 'the most complete Biblical apparatus in the language.' One man wrote and compiled this great work, which no living man is able to read. (33)
It was largely because the core of the College's library contained so many ponderous, sacred, valuable and useless volumes that it gained the reputation of being guarded more carefully than the United States Mint. What circulation there was sometimes took on rather bizarre forms:
The old folios were never read. Those who affected to know more than their classmates took them out. When I came to College, in 1828, one learned Senior told me that he always had three charged to him, 'one for a foot-stool, one for a cushion to his chair, and one for his water pail to rest on.' (p. 29)
A modern book collection, suitable for undergraduate reference and instruction, came together very slowly. Since 1843, the Library had been moved to the east end of the second floor of the newly completed Reed Hall-really, a collection of rooms devoted to the separate collections of the literary societies along with the official (and little used) collections of the College (see Figure 7, 'United Fraternity Room').34 In 1846, a faculty committee had reported that the College's library was 'deficient in every branch of learning' (Chase, History of Dartmouth College, 2: 511), and in 1850 the Trustees were urged to undertake a systematic program of improvement. Not as a result of that recommendation, but rather showing how slowly things normally moved, the Trustees voted that year to buy (very small numbers of) particular volumes:
Voted to procure for the college Library Ticknor's Spanish Literature, Johnstons Ag. Chem, Petrhold's Principle of Agriculture, Von Thäer Elements of Agriculture, Steven's Book of the Farm, Bähr's Roman Literature, & Montferrier Course of Math. & Dennis's Etruria. (35)
Perhaps the force of the faculty recommendation took effect a few years later when Professor Young was sent to Europe on behalf of the College Library to spend $3,750 for books and binding-including $840 for Latin, $l,140 for English literature, and $940 for astronomy and natural philosophy. (36)

Sanborn's response continued his theme of access-to-books by recalling that during his years as College librarian the collections of the literary societies had been integrated with the College's books, creating something like a rationalized and usable library, and making possible the appointment of a professional librarian: 'Now, with Professor POLLENS as their "Guide, Counselor and Friend," the students can easily find any book or article they need to aid them in their studies and the books are abundantly used.' (p. 29). Warming to his theme, Professor Sanborn summarized a lifetime of reading and instruction in these words:

If one great work like the history of Thucydides is 'a possession for eternity,' surely we may call a well filled library an eternal inheritance which enhances its value by distibuting its treasures. (p. 30)
And then he went on to praise the benefactor who had, in effect, made possible the linked construction of the new chapel and the new library: Edward Ashton Rollins. What he did not say, though it was not altogether unknown, was that there was a causative link between himself and that benefactor's actions. Tracing that link will close our story and finish the argument about Sanborn's passion and its noblest influences.

In the Minutes of the Trustees for 1883 is spread this letter from Rollins:

I hereby promise to pay to the Treasurer of the College, the Sum of ($30,000) thirty thousand dollars-to be expended in the erection of a Chapel on the lot north of Wentworth Hall . . . . this promise I make upon the following conditions-1st that in addition to the sum now paid him there be paid to Dr. Edwin D. Sanborn annually four hundred dollars during his natural life and that sixty thousand . . . dollars shall be first obtained in actual bona fide Subscriptions . . . for the immediate erection of a fire proof Library building for the use of the College. (Records, vol. 4, 'Annual meeting, 1883')
The more one thinks about this proposal, the more astonishing it seems. Dollar amounts aside -- and the chapel came in very close to its budgeted amount -- the two-for-one scheme is a near-miracle in timing. With this, the old College took a major stride towards becoming the New Dartmouth. Where did Mr. Rollins, a banker in Philadelphia, get such an idea? The record does not show, though there is that unprecedented third condition, the additional pension. The Trustees did not protest, the offer was 'gratefully accepted,' the Wilson legacy was successfully steered to the construction of the library, and the whole project turned into reality. Here, there is a little more to discover.

When Professor Sanborn retired, the Trustees voted to pay Sanborn an annuity from 'the funds,' but then could not secure such an arrangement-pensions were by no means automatic for retirees-until new pledges were in hand.37 By 8 February 1883, five donors had been identified and thanked; Lord names them as 'friends and former students,' and adds in a note, that 'the movement was begun by E. A. Rollins of Philadelphia' (Chase, History of Dartmouth College, 2:441). It would appear, then, that E. A. Rollins was the person most responsible for securing, and then increasing, Professor Sanborn's security in his retirement. Since there is no correspondence in Special Collections between these two men, one is free to speculate on the nature of their bond, on Rollins's motives, and on the particular invention of his double scheme to build a chapel and a library-the College approached him regarding a chapel; the notion of a library seems to have originated with him.38 Here it is impossible to ignore the significance of Professor Sanborn in his thinking. Two items from long ago help make the point.

First, the quotation at the beginning of this essay from Henry Fairbanks, Class of 1853, which gave us our first image of Professor Sanborn 'in chapel,' was from reminiscences at the same cornerstone ceremonies where Sanborn gave his responses. The next sentence after that quotation is this: 'Looking up in those days, as entering Freshman do at the higher classes, I saw Junior ROLLINS, a MAN among the men of a very manly class' ('Remarks,' p. 7). So there, portentously looming, is E. A. Rollins, Class of 1851.

Second: Each class in those days produced elaborate autograph books, often with pictures of faculty and campus, which were signed at commencement with the addition of solemn and inspiring words, rather than the scurrilous or flippant remarks that became the fashion in later years. In the records of the Class of 1851, several autograph books survive, and in them are what Professor Sanborn wrote over his signature. The evidence suggests he did not write the same thing in each book, so that he might in some cases have chosen particular lines for particular students. Hence, it is exceptionally intriguing to find him summing up his life's passion on a certain page of a certain book:

If I were to pray for a taste which should stand me in stead, under every variety of circumstance, & be a source of happiness & cheerfulness through life & a shield against its ills, however things might go amiss & the world frown against me, it would be a taste for reading. D. College/ June 12, 1851. /s/ E. D. Sanborn
O Bully Sanborn! '. . . To devise great enterprises, and persuade others to engage in them.' The autograph book belonged to Edward Ashton Rollins.


  1. S[arah] F[enton Clark] S[anborn], E. D. S. 1808 -1885 (San Francisco, 1886), 15. Sarah Fenton Clark was Professor Sanborn's second wife (since 1868), his first wife, Mary Webster Sanborn, having died in 1864.
  2. Cf. Leon Burr Richardson, History of Dartmouth College, 2 vols. (Hanover: Dartmnouth College Publications, 1932), 1:393. In 1845-1846, enrollment dropped to 179, its lowest point. From that year on, it steadily but very gradually increased.
  3. Although Dartmouth College Library, Special Collections, has a fair number of Sanborn photographs, few of them are dated. By virtue of comparing a dated photograph from his fifties, I estimate the portrait shown here is of Professor Sanborn in his early forties.
  4. The photograph is presumably no later than summer, 1880, judging from the fact that no class numbers later than that are painted or carved in the seats; a few years later, an organ would be installed; and later pictures show a radiator to the right of the stage by the stairs. The chapel had gas lighting since 1872, kerosene before that. This room, of course, lasted only to 1904, the year of the fire that burned Dartmouth Hall to the ground.
  5. Edwin J. Bartlett, A Dartmouth Book of Remembrance (Hanover: The Webster Press, 1922), 68.
  6. The rush was an undergraduate mayhem at the exits at the moment of closing; in 1851, a freshman had his leg broken in a morning's rush, and the Trustees began planning how to rearrange the exits and the seating.
  7. 'Remarks at the occasion of the laying of the cornerstones of Rollins Chapel and Wilson Hall,' in Rollins Chapel and Wilson Hall, Dartmouth College, June 25, 1884 (Hanover: Dartmouth Steam Press, 1884), 7.
  8. Showing (left to right) Wentworth, Dartmouth, Thornton, and Reed Halls. The engraving was made in 1851 by Christian Meadows, who was serving a prison term in Vermont for counterfeiting. This was discussed by Harold Goodard Rugg, 'Dartmouth College Engravings,' Dartmouth Alumni Magazine, 17:8 (June 1925), 657. It is interesting to note that, other than the 'Webster Elm,' right foreground, the trees are not very large and many are newly plated. The Green (i.e., 'The Common') had been cleared and fenced only in 1836. In 1843, the 'Hanover Tree Association' was established. In Frederick Chase, A History of Dartmouth College and the Town of Hanover, New Hampshire, edited by John K. Lord, 2 vols. (Cambridge [Mass.]: John Wilson and Son, 1891-1913), 2:273, John Lord writes, 'The results of its labors are many of the trees that now beautify the village.'
  9. Dartmouth College, Class of 1850, Report of its Golden Anniversary Meeting at Commencement, June 26, 1900, by John Ordronaux, Secretary (Hanover, 1900), 18. Ordronaux wrote 'The Dartmouth Ode,' adopted in 1868. See also note 28 below.
  10. Chase, History of Dartmouth College, 2:329.
  11. Dartmouth College Trustees, Records, vol. 3, 103, 104, manuscript volume in Dartmouth College Library, Special Collections.
  12. Edward David Sanborn, Obligations of the Teacher to His Profession. An Address Delivered before the Associate Alumni of the Merrimack Normal Institute, at their Second Annual Meeting (Hanover: Dartmouth Press, 1851), 4. This and other of Sanborn's occasional pieces have been collected in a volume in Dartmouth College Library, Special Collections, with the spine title Lectures and Addresses By E. D. Sanborn.
  13. Laws of Dartmouth College (Hanover: The Dartmouth Press, 1849), 4.
  14. All citations from Dartmouth College, Faculty, Records of the Faculty of Dartmouth College, October 3, 1815-March 31, 1884, vol. 3, manuscript volume in Dartmouth College Library, Special Collections.
  15. Dartmouth Book of Remembrance, 100.
  16. The heinous habit of horn-blowing apparently goes back through the 1840s and beyond; see J. W. Barstow ('46) on an incident in 1843, in Chase, History of Dartmouth College, 2:279-80.
  17. Cf. this epithet applied to another malefactor, Edward Hovey, class of 1852: '[T]intinabulum agitare nocte et tuba sonare amavit.' Why has this not been made into a lyric for a Glee Club song?
  18. Cf., for possible 'twinkle,' the wording in Sanborn's entry in the Records of the Faculty for 17 July 1848: 'Voted to require Soph. Read to deliver up his trumpet wherewith he discourseth most horrible music, to the college.' (Also cited in Chase, History of Dartmouth College, 2:280.)
  19. Cf. this paragraph from Laws of Dartmouth College, 11: 'A sentence may be mitigated . . . if it shall appear, from the penitence of a student, and his humble and ingenuous confession . . . that this may be done without weakening the force of moral restraint, and impairing the authority of the Laws.'
  20. Lord describes an incident of horning and riot that he considers much worse, called the 'Great Awakening,' around 12 July 1851, 'pandemonium was let loose.' Chase, History of Dartmouth College, 2:281.
  21. Reminiscences of School Life: An Autobiography (Cambridge: at the University Press, 1898), 33.
  22. Lord adds this anecdote: 'In a prayer meeting in which the subject was "Growing in Grace," he rose when the minister had finished speaking, and turning to the audience said: "I don't know much about this growing in grace. I don't see that I have grown in grace in the last ten years, and I don't see that any of you have either."' Chase, History of Dartmouth College, 2:443, n.1).
  23. From an undated obituary in the Lawrence, Massachusetts, Daily American, signed 'Parkhurst,' -- probably Charles Parkhurst, journalist and editor, Class of 1878, in Dartmouth College Library, Special Collections.
  24. The Hanover Gazette, 1 December 1921, p. 2.
  25. 'Response by Professor Edwin D. Sanborn, LL.D., formerly Librarian of the College,' in Exercises at the Laying of the Corner-Stones of the Rollins Chapel and of Wilson Hall, Dartmouth College, June 25, 1884 (Hanover: Printed for the College, 1886), 26-27.
  26. In Lectures and Addresses By E. D. Sanborn, 55.
  27. There are only two volumes of these in Dartmouth's holdings, and the students summarized represent classes only of the 1840s and 1850s. Some entries are written in Latin. The primary use was as a commonplace book for Sanborn's reading, and the class summaries are rather crammed in, as filling otherwise empty spaces.
  28. After graduation Ordronaux had taught school, then gone into law, and then, in 1859, took a medical degree. He taught at Columbia, Dartmouth, and the University of Vermont. Among his published works are a Manual of Instructions for Military Surgeons on the Examination of Recruits and Discharge of Soldiers (New York: Van Nostrand, 1863), a hefty text on The Jurisprudence of Medicine in its Relations to the law of Contracts, Torts, and Evidence (Philadelphia: T. & J. W. Johnson & Co., 1869), and an even heftier volume on Constitutional Legislation in the United States Its Origin, and Application to the Relative Powers of Congress, and of State Legislatures (Philadelphia: T. & J.W. Johnson, 1891). Surely Sanborn would have been proud (and amazed?) to learn Ordronaux would begin his scholarly career by publishing an edition of the medieval Regimen sanitatis Salernitanum [Code of Health of the School of Salernum], with facing-page Latin and his English translation in verse (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott & Co., 1871).
  29. From an account of an alumni gathering at the College when representatives 'from 47 classes' visited Professor Sanborn to honor him upon his retirement-signed by 'K. S.' [Kate Sanborn, his daughter?], dated Friday, 29 June [1882]; New York Times clipping in Dartmouth College Library, Special Collections.
  30. Undated holograph from 'The Vendome,' Boston, in Sanborn Family Correspondence, Dartmouth College Library, Special Collections, MS-463, box I, folder 3. Transcript in Chase, History of Dartmouth College, 2:44l.
  31. 'S. F. S.,' E. D. S., 15
  32. See Dedication of Rollins Chapel and Wilson Hall. Dartmouth College, June 24, 1885 (Hanover: Printed for the College, 1886), after page 26. Notice that what the library gained in space, readers lost in access: I.e., books were called for, waited for, and then delivered; the stacks were closed. Wilson Hall's most recent remodeling, as part of the construction of the Hood Museum, has turned the octagonal room ('B') into a classroom, and the first-floor stack spaces ('A') into offices and seminar rooms. The basement (or crypt?) is now a suite of offices for Hopkins Center administration, while the former upper-level galleries are the province of Film Studies.
  33. The volume is currently described as Biblia Sacra Polyglotta, ed. Brianus Waltonus (London: Thomas Roycroft, 1657). As might be expected, the volume's pages remain fresh with very little signs of use. Being called up for photography may be the first time since the nineteenth century that the volume has risen from its slumbers.
  34. Compare library regulations in the College Laws, described above, with each class having access 'one hour a week.'
  35. Records, vol. 4: 5 March 1850.
  36. Chase, History of Dartmouth College, 2:288. The money came largely from George C. Shattuck, Class of 1803, and the trip was primarily to purchase equipment for a new observatory.
  37. Records, vol. 4:310, 311, 317, 322, 324.
  38. President Bartlett's public description of Rollins's reflections in 1883 concerning a possible gift makes no mention, of course, of Professor Sanborn. See Dedication of Rollins Chapel, 20-21.