This website tugs at my heart strings. It provides a brief history of Yale Divinity School, where I earned my masters degree in 1982, and includes two of my teachers, Robert Clyde Johnson and Colin W. Williams, and faculty I knew, Harry Adams and Aiden Kavanaugh, and Dean Leander Keck. I’ll always be grateful for my studies and friendships at YDS!
At the moment, though, I’m interested in the section that credits the eighth Yale president, Timothy Dwight IV (1752-1817), for getting the momentum going for the eventual establishment of Yale Divinity School.
I’ve a collection of early 1800s travel books. They’re related to the history of my hometown, Vandalia, IL, when it was state capital in 1819-1839. I love the old writing style of travel authors of the era (including, to me, an abundant use of commas), and the interesting things the authors’ observed and preserved. These records of people, places, economy, and landscape are now indispensable to historians.
Knowing Timothy Dwight’s connection to my beloved school, last fall on a whim I purchased Dwight’s Travels in New England and New York. It’s a four-volume set, the first edition printed in New Haven by S. Converse in 1821, and includes all the maps. The books record economic and social aspects of New York and New England during the 1796-1817 period. Leafing through Dwight’s volumes provides a wonderful sense of northeastern life at that time.
My wife is a university president, and I love Dwight’s preface about the rigors of his work.
“In the year 1795 I was chosen President of Yale College. The business of this office is chiefly of a sedentary nature, and requires exertions of the mind almost without interruption. In 1774, when a tutor in the same Seminary, I was very near losing my life by inaction, and too intense application to study. A long course of unremitted exercise restored my health. These facts, together with subsequent experience, had taught me, that it could not be preserved by any other means. I determined, therefore, to devote the vacations, particularly in that autumn, which includes six weeks, to a regular course of traveling. In September 1796, the execution of my design was commenced; and the first journey mentioned in these letters, was accomplished. Before its commencement, it occurred to me, that a description of such interesting things, as I might meet with in my excursions, would probably furnish amusement to my family. I therefore put a note book into my pocket, with an intention to set down in it whatever should suit my inclination…”
He goes on to say that the note book was substituted with a regular journal, and he resolved to observe the rapidly changing area of New England (and later he added New York), to preserve its aspects for posterity and to address misrepresentations of New England about the region by other writers.
In his “Journey to Province Town,” page 79 of Volume III, we read:
“The houses in Yarmouth are inferiour to those in Barnstable, and much more generally of the class, which may be called, with propriety, Cape Cod Houses. These have one story, and four rooms on the lower floor; and are covered on the sides, as well as the roofs, with pine shingles, eighteen inches in length. The chimney is in the middle, immediately behind the front door; and on each side of the door are two windows. The roof is straight. Under it are two chambers; and there are two larger, and two smaller, windows in the gable end. This is the general structure, and appearance, of the great body of houses from Yarmouth to Race Point. There are, however, several varieties, but of too little importance to be described.”…
Why quote this paragraph? It’s the first use of that term “Cape Cod house.”