1840: Henry Boynton Smith to Daniel Raynes Goodwin

This letter was written by Henry B. Smith (1815-1877), the son of Henry Smith (1783-1853) and Arixene Southgate (1793-1820). Henry married Elizabeth Lee Allen (1817-1898).

An on-line biography of Henry B. Smith says he “graduated at Bowdoin College in 1834; studied theology at Andover, where his health failed, at Bangor, and, after a year (1836-1837) as librarian and tutor in Greek at Bowdoin, in Germany at Halle, where he became personally intimate with Tholuck and Ulrici, and in Berlin, under Neander and Hengstenberg.

“He returned to America in 1840, was a tutor for a few months (1840-1841) at Bowdoin, and in 1842, shut out from any better place by distrust of his German training and by his frank opposition to Unitarianism, he became pastor of the Congregational Church of West Amesbury (now Merrimac), Massachusetts. In 1847-1850 he was professor of moral philosophy and metaphysics at Amherst; and in 1850-1854 was Washburn professor of Church history, and in 1854-1874 Roosevelt professor of systematic theology, at Union Theological Seminary. His health failed in 1874 and he died in New York City on the 7th of February 1877. His son Henry Goodwin Smith was also a theologian.

“Of the old school of the New England Theology, Smith was one of the foremost leaders of the new school Presbyterians. His theology is most strikingly contained in the Andover address, “Relations of Faith and Philosophy,” which was delivered before the Porter Rhetorical Society in 1849. He always made it clear that the ideal philosophy was Christocentric: he said that Reformed theology must “‘Christologize’ predestination and decrees, regeneration and sanctification, the doctrine of the Church, and the whole of the Eschatology.” [Source: Wikipedia]

Smith wrote the letter to Bowdoin College Professor Daniel Raynes Goodwin (1811-1890), the son of Samuel Goodwin (1764-1855) and Anna Gerrish (1769-18xx). Professor Goodwin was married (1838) to Mary Randall Merrick (1810-1884), the daughter of Samuel and Hannah (Humpage) Merrick. A reference is made in the letter to the daughter of Daniel and Mary Goodwin, Anna Harriet Goodwin, who was born in 1838.

An on-line biography says of Professor Goodwin say he “was born in North Berwick, Maine, in 1811. Goodwin attended the academy in South Berwick and the Limerick Academy before matriculating at Bowdoin College. After graduating from Bowdoin in 1832, he briefly taught at an academy in Hallowell, Maine, before matriculating at the Andover Theological Seminary.

“In 1835 Goodwin was called back to Bowdoin as a tutor in the department of Modern Languages where, later that same year, he was named Professor of Modern Languages. Goodwin, however, decided that he needed to brush up on his language skills before he took the position full time so he spent the next two years in Germany, Italy, France, and Spain before returning to teach full time in 1837. Goodwin remained at Bowdoin until 1853 during which time he also served as the college librarian for fifteen years. During this time he was also ordained a deacon in the Protestant Episcopal Church in 1847 and a priest the following year.

“In 1853 Goodwin left Bowdoin to become the President of Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, where he continued to teach students as a professor of Modern Languages. Here Goodwin remained for seven years, during which time he was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity by his alma mater. He left Trinity when he was named Provost and Professor of Moral Philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania.

“Goodwin’s tenure at Penn was neither long nor marked by many significant developments in the University’s history. He stayed for only eight years after and made perhaps his biggest impact at his inaugural address during which he announced his support for physical training and dancing at Penn. Goodwin eventually resigned his post over a difference of opinion with the Board of Trustees regarding its decision to create a scientific school at Penn. Even though his tenure at Penn was unremarkable, the Board of Trustees did not ignore Goodwin’s superior intellect; Goodwin was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws in 1868.

“Although Goodwin was never named rector of any church, his dedication to the Episcopal Church is evident in his activities following his resignation from Penn. In 1868 Goodwin was named Dean of the Philadelphia Divinity School, where he had been a professor since 1865. He remained Dean of the school until 1883 and continued as a professor until his death in 1890. Goodwin was also very active in Episcopal Church politics, representing Philadelphia Episcopalians at church conferences for nearly thirty years.” [Source: Penn University Archives Center.]

As a testament to the close friendship of these two Bowdoin colleagues, they both named their sons after each other.

Stampless Letter


Addressed to Prof. Daniel R. Goodwin, Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Maine, U.S.A.
Per Great Western

Steamer Neptune: in sight of Roadstead Light
Sunday Evening 11 o’clock. April 12, 1840

My own dear brother, my own dear, dear sister,

The wanderer is coming back to you. [The] strayed one is turning his face homeward. Do you know — can you conceive — how glad he is. yes, you can. We shall be in London tomorrow at 11 o’clock. For the last week, I have been sad at leaving Berlin — now I am rejoicing in hope. These two days upon the water have been most delightful. I love the ocean so much: It is so exceedingly quiet, the sun has been shining all the time, the winds are quite lulled — just enough to be invigorating — & ___ have had a quiet a time upon the sea for 2 days in succession. Our fat, thick captain, with his bald head, thick-set neck, portly paunch — made up of beef steak and plum pudding in alternate layers — is quite enchanted with the passage as we can see by the twinkling of his little eye as he talks about it.

But Daniel, I’ve got something else to tell you. I’ve sent you per Berlin a box of books directed to Gerold Sherman & Co., Bowdoin College, from Wilhelm Beller in Berlin: Campe’s, d____ W_____ —  5 _______ : so far as I could ascertain, there was little difference between Campe & Adeliny. The brothers Grimm intend to publish all which shall eclipse all others — but that will be some year’s hence — 5 or 6. Herder’s _____ — handsomely bound for 25 ___: twas my copy, but I find are 2d hand, just as good for me, much cheaper, & which I send you the oct___ edition. Jean Paul’s W____ — 29 ____ — as cheap as I could procure a copy. The “Chalybatus: _______ _______ der Phil. van Kant ___ H____” — receive as a token of my love. Twill partly answer in a popular way.

Now of the questions you proposed to me in your last letter. Though we will talk of that ___ by & bye. _______ is the best extant, although not yet completed. If the 1st ___ fails, I will tell you the reason by & bye. The other works are partly some classical works which I send by this opportunity to avoid the tax & partly have which I ordered after my boxes were packed up. Please give them ____ till I claim them. I don’t think they’ll leave Hamburg before the last part of next week so they’ll not reach you before July. I shall probably have seen you before that time, yet ’tis best to write you about it right away. For the study of German philosophy, I have among my books quite ample materials & I _____ toward which we could pursue the study together. “twould do us both so much good to study together & then to study this philosophy together.

Thank you much, very much, brother & sister for your December letter. I felt reproved by it, not only for the style in which my letters have been recently written, for Mary can “sense” these well enough ____ & by her “sensing” be very likelt to improve then. But also for my negligence in writing to you. I am very, very sorry & I can’t say anything more.

Thank Mary for all the news. You do know, sister, how to write a letter which shall make one smile with pleasant association all the time he is reading it. As to the import of the [remainder of paragraph written in German].

There. Have I told you now as much as you knew before. If not, I’ll be quite content. We’re content when we can “plaudem” together to our heart’s content about all these matters. Then I must talk German for I find it quite irksome to talk about philosophical questions & subjects of ____ diversity in the mother English.

Give little Anna a nice kiss for me as a sort of persuasion to ______ & do ___ her so far that she’ll be able to say Uncle Henry before I come. And do not let her ____ that precocious inclination to the Hyelian philosophy which she shared according to Mary’s account even when swallopwing the milk.

Remember me, sister Mary, most respectfully & cordially to your Uncle. I trust he will find me neither a “dancing master” nor an “unintelligible genius.” Congratulate :”Lou” upon his marriage with all heartiness. My love to Prof. & Mrs. Smyth, & remembrances all round according to opportunities of distributing them — specially Miss Weld. Perhaps I meet Pred. Woods in England but this is only a guess. I will pay the money & get the things of Miss V. in London….

I look with hope to the blessings of the future. Ever yours in love, — Henry B. Smith


2 responses to “1840: Henry Boynton Smith to Daniel Raynes Goodwin

  • wendalore

    Hi, Henry Boynton Smith is my 2nd great-grandfather—he was a gifted but tortured soul. He wanted to fly with his inspirations, which he did when he traveled or preached, but he had to earn money for himself and his family and that meant teaching and writing. His resentment about this, he did not keep secret in his letters to his friends and to his wife. He had tremendous anxiety, which of course they didn’t call “anxiety” then. What they (and he) were aware of then was how terribly taxing it was to his physical system. I think he may also have been bi-polar. He kept wearing himself out, staying up all night talking, or writing, while inspired. Then he would get “sick” and have to stay in bed and do nothing for days or weeks. Strangely, the Victorian doctors considered “travel” to be restorative and relaxing. The “sea air,” they praised exceedingly. So he traveled, to the seashore, but most especially to Europe. He loved experiencing it all, analyzing, observing, and relating to people, sharing his ideas intensely, especially with other theologians. His ideas were received as innovative, passionate, and brilliant and seemed to lead to a stronger devotion to Christ. But it would wear him OUT! SO completely. From what I can gather, from his wife’s (Elizabeth Lee Allen Smith) memoir about him, he was not at all “restored” by his travels—but they did feed his mind—so he could spend MORE time in frantic thought, analysis, writing passionate letters to friends! He was much beloved by many people—students, peers, family. His was not a dry intellect. He did not have Asperger’s! (that came later in my family) It’s funny, this is the very first thing I have ever written about him. In doing our family tree, I have met him and am now learning about him—also suffering for him. I think he could have used some modern psychology! but enough talk! (That’s one thing he and I have in common: love of talk!)

    I wanted to say I have enjoyed reading this old letter he wrote, and hearing more about the man he loved so well that he named his fourth and last child, and second son, after him, “Henry GOODWIN Smith.” At first I went looking in our family tree for “Goodwins” but found none, and then did find in ELS’s memoir, Professor Goodwin’s name and read about their close relationship, and then I understood. But I’m still hunting for “Boynton.” After whom did Henry Smith and the blessed Arixene Southgate Smith name their oldest surviving baby? (Out of five, only three survived and she died of TB at age 27.) Who was Mr. Boynton? I’ll be looking out for that!

    We have a mountain of ancestor letters. I think Henry B.s wife Elizabeth was the one who started saving them. Seriously, if they were piled in the middle of an average sized room, they would indeed look like a mountain. If I find anything of note, perhaps I will post it here!! This blog that I have just discovered. What a good idea!!!

  • wendalore

    It’s me again. I am still puzzling over what the health problems that plagued my poor second great grandfather for is entire life could have been caused by. I would like a modern student of medicine, psychology, body systems, whatever works, to read through what has been written about him and share their 2 cents!

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