A Boston Brahmin Abroad: George Ticknor, Hispanism, and Dartmouth

… to study – not men, but books

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  • Boston Public Library, Boylston Street. Photograph. 1858.

    Photo of Boston Public Library

    Boston Public Library, Boylston Street. Photograph. 1858.
  • 1816 April 6. Göttingen. End of first semester at Göttingen. Results. Today the semester properly so called came to a close. For me it has been the most industrious and, I hope, the most profitable period of my life, for I have sacrificed happiness enough to purchase it…

    George Ticknor, Journal, Göttingen, April 6, 1816

    1816 April 6. Göttingen. End of first semester at Göttingen. Results. Today the semester properly so called came to a close. For me it has been the most industrious and, I hope, the most profitable period of my life, for I have sacrificed happiness enough to purchase it…
  • A French engineer, statesman, and economist, Michel Chevalier (1806-1879) traveled extensively in the U.S. and published a book on American society.

    Photo of Michel Chevalier

    A French engineer, statesman, and economist, Michel Chevalier (1806-1879) traveled extensively in the U.S. and published a book on American society.
  • Statuette of George Ticknor by Martin Milmore, 1868. The Latin inscription on its base means: “[George Ticknor in] his 77th year. Always with his beloved books.” https://hoodmuseum.dartmouth.edu/objects/s.x.465

    Statuette of George Ticknor

    Statuette of George Ticknor by Martin Milmore, 1868. The Latin inscription on its base means: “[George Ticknor in] his 77th year. Always with his beloved books.” https://hoodmuseum.dartmouth.edu/objects/s.x.465
  • Ticknor’s passport used on his last European trip, issued April 22, 1856. We learn from his passport that Ticknor stood 5’8” and had hazel eyes. Having already spent seven years of his life in Europe, he was less enthusiastic about this trip. “As I travel about in places more or less familiar to me … I feel a good deal as a professor emeritus does, who keeps the title, but does none of the work of his place. I call myself a traveler, but fulfill little of a traveler’s duty.”

    George Ticknor's Passport

    Ticknor’s passport used on his last European trip, issued April 22, 1856. We learn from his passport that Ticknor stood 5’8” and had hazel eyes. Having already spent seven years of his life in Europe, he was less enthusiastic about this trip. “As I travel about in places more or less familiar to me … I feel a good deal as a professor emeritus does, who keeps the title, but does none of the work of his place. I call myself a traveler, but fulfill little of a traveler’s duty.”
  • Armed with letters of introduction from prominent Americans like Thomas Jefferson, Ticknor made friends and acquaintances with scholars, politicians, and men of letters all over Europe. In America, Ticknor kept up these relationships through letters. Europeans were curious about the young United States and sometimes anxious about its rise in political and cultural affairs. In this letter to Ticknor, Michel Chevalier says of Ticknor’s accomplishment as an American writing a definitive history of Spanish literature:
“Do you know that seeing you succeed in this bold endeavor is a real concern for us Europeans? This is indeed nothing less than the beginning of the American conquest of the Old World.”

    Letter from Michel Chevalier to George Ticknor, December 13, [1850?]

    Armed with letters of introduction from prominent Americans like Thomas Jefferson, Ticknor made friends and acquaintances with scholars, politicians, and men of letters all over Europe. In America, Ticknor kept up these relationships through letters. Europeans were curious about the young United States and sometimes anxious about its rise in political and cultural affairs. In this letter to Ticknor, Michel Chevalier says of Ticknor’s accomplishment as an American writing a definitive history of Spanish literature: “Do you know that seeing you succeed in this bold endeavor is a real concern for us Europeans? This is indeed nothing less than the beginning of the American conquest of the Old World.”
  • 1816 Sept. 10. Göttingen. End of second semester. Results. Today closes my second semester in Göttingen, and I am grateful to Heaven that another period of my imprisonment has passed, for five miserable months as the last have been have never before darkened my life. Perhaps, however, all this may be well and fortunate for its effect has been to keep me constantly and severely at my books and that is the object for which I have remained here.

    George Ticknor, Journal, Göttingen, September 10, 1816

    1816 Sept. 10. Göttingen. End of second semester. Results. Today closes my second semester in Göttingen, and I am grateful to Heaven that another period of my imprisonment has passed, for five miserable months as the last have been have never before darkened my life. Perhaps, however, all this may be well and fortunate for its effect has been to keep me constantly and severely at my books and that is the object for which I have remained here.