8. My First Reading—Lafayette
FROM 1824 to ’28 our family lived in Brooklyn in Front, Cranberry and Johnson streets. In the latter my father built a nice house for a home, and afterwards another in Tillary street. We occupied them, one after the other, but they were mortgaged, and we lost them. I yet remember Lafayette’s visit.1 Most of these years I went to the public schools. It must have been about 1829 or ’30 that I went with my father and mother to hear Elias Hicks preach in a ball-room on Brooklyn heights. At about the same time employ’d as a boy in an office, lawyers’, father and two sons, Clarke’s, Fulton street, near Orange. I had a nice desk and window-nook to myself; Edward C. kindly help’d me at my handwriting and composition, and, (the signal event of my life up to that time,) subscribed for me to a big circulating library. For a time I now revel’d in romance-reading of all kinds; first, the “Arabian Nights,” all the volumes, an amazing treat. Then, with sorties in very many other directions, took in Walter Scott’s novels, one after another, and his poetry, (and continue to enjoy novels and poetry to this day.)
Note 1. “On the visit of General Lafayette to this country, in 1824, he came over to Brooklyn in state, and rode through the city. The children of the schools turn’d out to join in the welcome. An edifice for a free public library for youths was just then commencing, and Lafayette consented to stop on his way and lay the corner-stone. Numerous children arriving on the ground, where a huge irregular excavation for the building was already dug, surrounded with heaps of rough stone, several gentlemen assisted in lifting the children to safe or convenient spots to see the ceremony. Among the rest, Lafayette, also helping the children, took up the five-year-old Walt Whitman, and pressing the child a moment to his breast, and giving him a kiss, handed him down to a safe spot in the excavation.”—John Burroughs.