BLTC Press Titles

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The Secret Doctrine, Volume I Cosmogenesis

H. P. Blavatsky

Vanity Fair

William Thackery

Esoteric Buddhism

A. P. Sinnett

Letters on the Aesthetical Education of Man

Friedrich Schiller

Nathan Hale

by Jean Christie Root


But Nathan Hale had yet another gift that would surely endear him to college students of to-day as much as it doubtless did to his own classmates. He was a powerful athlete. So great was his skill in this line that, to successive generations of Yale men, the "broad jump" made by Nathan Hale remained unequaled. It is said to have taken place on what is now called "The Green" in New Haven, not far from the Old State House; and for many years the spot was marked to designate the length of the jump. Even during the years when his courageous death appeared to be well-nigh forgotten, "Hale's jump" was vividly remembered. But he not only "jumped," he excelled in all games then popular in college, besides being a capital shot with his rifle, as well as a fine swimmer.

Hale could, it is said, lay one hand on the top of a six-foot fence and easily vault over it; and, though this astonishing feat is reported as occurring while he was a teacher, he used to delight his companions by showing them how to stand in a hogshead with his hands on his hips, leap over the first hogshead, land in a second, leap from that into a third, and from that out on to the ground, — all this before he was twenty.

Imagine the delight of the "other fellows" standing around to watch Hale go through his various stunts in athletics! It almost makes one feel as if one had been a student and shared in the cheering when Hale did these things, so easy to himself, so difficult to the onlookers. Then fancy the talk at the supper tables, when the candles burned brightly and the eatables tasted twice as good because "old Hale" had won laurels for "old Yale" that afternoon by some "splendid" deed, as the boys called it. Whatever he did, we may be sure that it was done well and with all his might, and that nobody equaled him.

This much for the athletic life of Hale in his student days. It was only natural to such a man that whatever he was — friend, student, teacher, or soldier — he should carry zest and earnestness to all his work, even as he carried his manliness, his courtesy, and his unquenchable spirit.

Let us now turn to the record of his years of successful work at Yale. It has been said that whatever he did, he did with all his might, and his brain work was as notable in its results as were the strength and agility of his body. In those early days the college bell rang for prayers, as the beginning of the day's work, at half past four in summer and an hour later in winter; and there are men still living who remember, in later years and at later hours, the wild rushes half-dressed students used to make, adjusting what they could of their hastily donned clothing on their race to morning chapel.

Hale, however, as well as his companions a hundred and forty years ago, were accustomed to early rising, and able to fill every hour of their long days with work or play. The course of study then was much shorter than it is now, but if lacking in quantity it certainly made up in some of its qualities. We doubt if Freshmen to-day would outshine their fellows of that very early time if their declamations on Fridays were required to be in Latin, Greek, or Hebrew, "no English being allowed save by special permission."

Science as we now know it had not entered into the college course, but the little then known, and the other studies considered essential, comparatively limited as they must have been, were taught so thoroughly that the men who carried away a college diploma carried a sure guarantee that they had been carefully taught whatever was then considered essential to a college education.

Although it is true that science was then in comparative infancy, it is also true that it was deeply absorbing to young Hale. Some of his most valued books were scientific, and, aside from the studies he was obliged to pursue, he eagerly absorbed educational theories and the best literary works then available. As a college student, he stood high; as a thinker and as one interested in the finest pursuits of his period, he ranked equally high. Before he was nineteen he had won the permanent friendship and ardent admiration of a man who was then his tutor, Timothy Dwight, later the renowned president of Yale College, and to the end of his long life a lover of his boy-friend, Nathan Hale.

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