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When our national independence was acknowledged, and our armies disbanded, in 1783, Barlow was again thrown upon the world to make, or to find, his own fortune. He had never mani. fested much fondness for the clerical profession, and the habits of a military life contributed to unfit him still more for the regular labours, and humble duties, of a parish minister. In New England, if the clerical character has been worn without disgrace, it may easily be thrown off without dishonour. Mir. Barlow, therefore, without hesitation, reverted to bis original plan of pursuing the profession of the law. With this view he removed to Hartford, where he settled himself, as he imagined, for the rest of his life. But although the preparatory studies of the modern lawyer do not require the viginti annorum lucubrationes of my Lord Coke, he found it necessary to resort to some more lucrative occupation as the means of temporary support until he should be admitted to the bar, and established in practice. For this purpose, in connexion with a printer of Hartford, he undertook and succeeded in establishing a weekly newspaper. Our gazettes were then, literally, nothing more than newspapers, and were seldom regarded, as at present, as the guides or organs of political opinion. The original articles occasionally inserted by Barlow, had an air of novelty which gave reputation and circulation to his paper, and at the same time assisted in producing considerable effect upon the public mind, with respect to many important political subjects.
While engaged in this business he was also employed in preparing for the press his Vision of Columbus. The extensive acquaintance he had formed in the army, and the zeal of his personal frien.Is, enabled him to obtain a very large subscription for this work, which was published in 1787. Its success was very flattering ; within a few months after its publication in America, it was reprinted in London, and has since gone through a second edition in America, and one in Paris.
The first edition was inscribed, in an elegant and courtly dedi. cation, to Louis XVI.
About this period it was determined, by the general association of the clergy of Connecticut, that Dr. Watts's version of the pslams, which had for some time been in general use in their congregations, should be revised and altered, for the purpose of sup
plying some omissions, and adapting it to the peculiar state of the New England churches. The poetical talent which Barlow had displayed, the harmony and correctness of his versification, and the moral and religious character of many passages of his poem, which was then on the eve of publication, and had for some time circulated in manuscript among his friends, all joined to point him out as the person best fitted for this honourable duty. He was accordingly applied to by a committee appointed for the purpose, and undertook the revision. Many of the psalms had been so paraphrased by Watts as to have a local reference to the religious or the political state of Great Britain. These he so altered as to avoid all local application; and in others he made numerous slight corrections wherever the verses of Watts seemed deficient in elegance or grammatical purity. Beside these corrections, six psalms were almost rewritten, and twelve, which had been omitted, were supplied by Barlow. In general, he has happily imitated the artless and unaffected simplicity of Watts; but the 137th* is versified with all the elegance and polish of language of the most highly-finished modern poetry. To the psalms he added a new selection of hymns, from those of Watts, interspersed with some devotional pieces of his own, of which it is no small praise to say, that as they stand in the collection without the name of the author, they are not easily to be discerned by any internal evidence, from those which accompany them. This volume was published in 1786, and continued for several years to be the authorized version of the Connecticut churches; it has since been again revised and enlarged by the Rev. Dr. Dwight, and with his corrections and additions is the one now in ordinary use.
About, or a little before, the period of these publications, Barlow gave up his concern in the weekly paper, and opened a bookshop at Hartford. This was intended chiefly to aid the sale of his poem, and of the new edition of the psalms; and as soon as these objects were efiected, he quitted the business, and engaged in the practice of the law.
During his residence at Hartford he was concerned in several
Along the banks wliere Babel's current flows, &e.
occasional publications, which issued from a club of wits and young politicians* in that city and its vicinity.
In particular he is said to have borne a considerable share in the composition of the Anarchiad. This was a mock critical account of a pretended ancient epic poem, interspersed with a number of extracts from the supposed work, the whole conducted upon the plan of the Rolliad, but with higher political objects and less per. sonal asperity. By a fable contrived with some ingenuity, this poem is represented as having been known to the ancients, and read and imitated by some of the most popular modern poets, By this supposition the utmost license of parody and imitation is obtained, and by the usual poetical machinery of episodes, visions, and prophecies, the scene is shifted at pleasure, backwards forwards, from one country to another, from earth to heaven, and from ancient to modern times. This plan is filled up with great spirit; the humorous is, indeed, better than the serious part; but both have merit, and some of the parodies are extremely happy. The political design of the authors was to support those plans which were then forming for the adoption of an efficient federal constitution, and to chastise and expose certain demagogues who, in some of the states, and especially in Rhode Island, had been active in several measures equally hostile to good faith, and to sound public policy. The Anarchiad, like the Rolliad, was published by piecemeal from time to time, as matter of satire happened to occur. It had a wide circulation through the union, and as at that time the public taste was unaccustomed to those strong stimulants to which it has since been habituated, this novelty of sarcasm and satire had a very considerable influence upon the political opinions of a large portion of the community.
On July 4, 1787, Barlow delivered an oration before the Connecticut Cincinnati. This composition is a piece of sober prose, with little parade of language, or attempt at eloquence. After go
The most conspicuous among them were Mr. (now Judge) Trumbull, the author of M'Fingal, Rev. Mr. (now Dr.) Strong, Oliver Wolcott, Esq., Col. Hum. phreys, and the late Dr. Hopkins, the original projector of the Anarchiad, a man of powerful mind, and eccentric habits, of bold imagination, and an undisciplined taste. The Hypocrite's Hope, and two other humorous pieces of an original and whimsical character, by Dr. Hopkins, may be found in the collection of American pocras above referred to.
ing over the commonplace topics of the history of our independence, the orator insists strongly upon the necessity of an efficient general government, and evidently labours to prepare the popular sentiment for a favourable reception of the new constitution then under consideration of the convention, in session in Philadelphia.
These various publications continued to increase and extend his reputation as a man of general talents ; but in the meanwhile his success at the bar was by no means flattering. His mind, long habituated to indulge itself in all the elegant luxuries of learning, or to exercise its reasoning powers only upon general truth and philosophical investigation, could not descend with facility to the minute details, and mechanical drudgery, of the subordinate branches of his profession. He was unfortunate in an embarrassed elocution, his habits of life were grave and retired, and his manners and address were not of that familiar and conciliating cast which so often supplies or conceals the want of professional merit. These, or similar impediments, have for a season depressed the talents of some of the brightest ornaments of the bar; but have finally given way to the power of resolute application, or the invincible energies of genius.
Barlow, however, was in no situation to wait for wealth and bonour, which might come too late, if they came at all. The small fund wbich he had accumulated from his literary speculations was rapidly decreasing, and the emoluments of bis business were inconsiderable. He had, indeed, no children to render poverty more bitter by participating with him of its evils; and the active virtues and cultivated understanding of his wife, enabled him to bear up with fortitude against the privations and difficulties which threatened him.
Under these circumstances he was easily induced to abandon the profession, and engage in an employment which promised to enable him to obtain, in Europe, that competence for which he seemed destined to toil in vain in his native land. Of the nature of this new occupation the writer of a sketch of the earlier part of Mr. Barlow's life, published several years ago, * gives the follow
* In the London Monthly Magazine, for 1798. This and several other sketches of American characters, are understood to have been written by the late Dr. W. P. Smith, of New York. VOL. IV. Nen Series,
ing account. “ Some members of a land company, called the Ohio Company, in connexion with a few other persons, then supposed to be men of property, by a manæuvre, not then understood, but which has since been detected, appropriated to their own use a very considerable part of the funds of that company; and, under the title of the Scioto Company, offered vast tracts of land for sale in Europe, to few of which they had any pretensions.” As the agent of this company, but with perfect ignorance of their real plan, Barlow embarked for England, in 1788, and soon after crossed from thence to France, where he disposed of some of these lands, under the title of the Scioto Company. The French have never been remarkable for their success in colonization, and their first settlements on the Ohio failed completely. This was occasioned partly by the doubtful and disputed title under which they held, and partly also, it is to be presumed, by their want of enterprise and resource, and their inexpertness in those arts and habits of life which enable our own countrymen to subdue the forest, and to make the wilderness recede on every side from before the presence of civilized man; although their countryman Vol. ney assigns a much more whimsical reason for the general failure of all their attempts of this nature. He ascribes it chiefly to their insatiable love of talking, which crowds them together in villages, puts a stop to all solitary labour, and engrosses the greater part of that time which the American settler devotes to active exertion.
After spending some years in misery and want, these colonists removed to more favourable situations, and the remains of their attempts at improvement, shortly after they left them, are de. scribed by intelligent travellers as exhibiting a strange scene of ludicrous wretchedness, more resembling the vestiges of a colony of beavers than those of a settlement of enterprising farmers.
The result of this agency was almost as unfortunate to Barlow, as to these speculators, and after affording him a temporary maintenance, left him with little other resource than his own talents and reputation, to force his way on this new stage of action.
During this period the progress of the revolution in France had kindled to a strong flame all that enthusiasm which he had long cherished for the cause of republicanism. In common with many