10. Growth—Health—Work

I DEVELOP’D (1833–4–5) into a healthy, strong youth (grew too fast, though, was nearly as big as a man at 15 or 16.) Our family at this period moved back to the country, my dear mother very ill for a long time, but recover’d. All these years I was down Long Island more or less every summer, now east, now west, sometimes months at a stretch. At 16, 17, and so on, was fond of debating societies, and had an active membership with them, off and on, in Brooklyn and one or two country towns on the island. A most omnivorous novel-reader, these and later years, devour’d everything I could get. Fond of the theatre, also, in New York, went whenever I could—sometimes witnessing fine performances.

1836–7, work’d as compositor in printing offices in New York city. Then, when little more than eighteen, and for a while afterwards, went to teaching country schools down in Queens and Suffolk counties, Long Island, and “boarded round.” (This latter I consider one of my best experiences and deepest lessons in human nature behind the scenes, and in the masses.) In ’39, ’40, I started and publish’d a weekly paper in my native town, Huntington. Then returning to New York city and Brooklyn, work’d on as printer and writer, mostly prose, but an occasional shy at “poetry.”