Henry Edwin Dwight (c.1797 - 1832)

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Birthdate:
Birthplace: New Haven, CT, USA
Death: Died in New Haven, CT
Occupation: Physician & Clergyman
Managed by: Michael Reid Delahunt, art teacher & lexicographer
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About Henry Edwin Dwight

Henry Edwin Dwight (son of Prest. Timothy Dwight and Mary Woolsey), b. at New Haven, April 19, 1797, grad. at Yale in 1815, made a profession of religion in 1817, and went to Andover Theol. Sem. (1823-4) to prepare for the ministry. In his 2d year there, he walked back from an excursion to the White Mountains, from noon to noon of two successive days, 52 miles, and unfortunately caught, at the end of such great fatigue, a very severe cold, which resulted in his bleeding at the lungs. This led to his abandonment of his theological studies, and his departure to Europe, where he spent four years (1824-28) in study at the University of Gottingen. In his college-course at home, he had been indifferent to his duties and privileges as a student. The interval between his graduation (1815-17) and his entrance upon theological study at Andover, ho had spent, as a clerk in the hardware store of his brother, Benjamin, in Catskill, and afterwards of his brother Timothy in New Haven. He had thus learned habits of business, and had come to feel that life was full of earnest demands upon human strength and hope, everywhere. On his return from the continent he published a book entitled "Travels in Germany," which attracted much attention among literary men.

"With Rev. Cornelius Tuthill and Nathaniel Chauncey, he established a weekly magazine called " The Microscope," to which Percival the poet, Prof. Fisher, and Prest. Dwight were occasional contributors; and which was designed to be a sort of American " Spectator." For want of an adequate pecuniary basis, this young and spirited magazine soon succumbed to its fate. In 1828 he joined his brother Sereno in the enterprise, already described, of "The New Haven Gymnasium."' He abounded in pleasing and magnetic qualities of character, and was greatly beloved by his pupils, and by all who knew him. In 1831, lie and his brother closed, under the stern demands of utterly inadequate health, their newly begun and greatly successful work, as teachers at New Haven. He was invited to a professorship in the New York University, which his poor health compelled him to decline. He gave however by request, at New York and Philadelphia, lectures, which he delivered with extempore freedom and effect, on "Sights by the way, Nature and Art, Structures and Institutions, Persons and Manners," and whatever else he had seen and admired in Europe. These topics were then new to American audiences, and his facile and interesting treatment of them was received with much favor by large and appreciative audiences. He was expecting to have been married within a brief period to Miss Chauncey of Philadelphia. 'But, after an illness of two months, attended with severe sufferings, he died, at New Haven, Aug. 11, 1832, aet. 36.

Says Dr. Wm. B. Sprague of him (Annals of Am. Pulpit, vol. ii. p. 158): "I have the most pleasant recollections of him, as a classmate in college. The gentleness of his spirit and the urbanity of his manners made him an universal favorite; and he subsequently became distinguished, as a graceful and attractive writer. I heard him spoken of in Germany, in terms of the highest respect in regard to the qualities of both his intellect and his heart."

In Sparks' "American Biography," Dr. Sprague says more fully, in an account of him prepared for that work: "I knew him as a classmate and loved him as a friend; and rarely has there been known a more generous and noble nature. He had an exuberance of good nature, which in college made him the favorite of all; while yet, by making him the centre of too many social circles, it operated unfavorably to his scholarship, especially in those departments which required intense application. After he was graduated however, a wonderful change came over him: the gaiety of preceding years subsided into a dignified Christian cheerfulness; and his intellectual faculties burst forth into a freshness and splendor that astonished all who had previously known him. Happening, several years after his return from Germany, to travel through a part of it, where he had spent a portion of his time, I heard him spoken of, as having been the favorite of all who had known him. One especially of the first scholars of the day spoke of both his head and his heart, in a way that would have seemed extravagant, if my personal knowledge had not verified the statement."

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It is rare that seven brothers sit together, without a sister, around the same table. The seven sons of Prest. Dwight, whose lives have been here briefly sketched, had many observable points of resemblance to each other. They were all large men, with fine intellectual countenances, and all, except Timothy and James, strongly marked with Woolsey characteristics. They were men of liberal culture, all of them. They all, but Timothy and James, were college graduates. James took half the college course of study; and Timothy, who was a man of great native energy of mind, educated himself, over and above his full course of academic study, with his father, in large courses of reading and study, through all his subsequent life in standard literature, and especially in history, poetry and theology.

They were all self-poised men, and thoroughly individual, religious and earnest in their ideas, — standing up everywhere and always for the right, and never caring, for their part, whether it was with many or with few. They were foremost from the first among the antislavery men of the land, and hated "the peculiar institution," as being peculiarly wicked, while others around them in great numbers were silent about its blighting influence upon every thing good, and many of the leaders in church and state attempted to defend its right to a protracted, and even protected, existence, on both legal and moral grounds. Men of more independence in their personal opinions, on all points of personal faith and duty, and on the higher topics of thought familiar to cultivated minds, it would be impossible to find; or those of more fearless frankness in their manifestation. All thoughts of personal popularity, as a treasure worth gaining or coveting, and any accompanying suggestions of the desirableness, at any time, of policy or wise management, or even tact, as a probable or possible means of promoting their own special interests, or objects of desire, seemed to be habitually and totally absent from their minds.

They all married late in life, or remained unmarried. Those which had families had but small ones; or they were early reduced by death to a moderate number, except in the family of Dr. Benj. W. Dwight. All the descendants accordingly now (1874) of Prest. Dwight and his seven sons number, after nearly 100 years since his marriage in 1777, but 43, of whom 13 are grandchildren, and 30 great-grandchildren. Of the grandchildren 10 are males and of the great-grandchildren, 9. Of the whole number of descendants (43), 22 are descendants of Dr. Benj. W. Dwight.

President Dwight's sons all married superior women — all cultivated, religious, thoughtful and earnest; and their own personal characteristics have been very observably stamped in the different families upon their offspring.

Before Prest. Dwight's day, the family, had largely a legal and judicial style of development, as well as a positive military history. Since his time its professional aspects have been about equally educational, ministerial and legal. With the exception of some of his sons, all of whom were in comfortable circumstances, the family has been blessed for many generations with considerable wealth, in most of its branches — which is indeed saying but little of any family or individual, unless the further fact can be truly added, that it has been conscientiously and generously used to promote the greatest and best ends of human life, while enjoying its privileges.

Source: The history of the descendants of John Dwight, of Dedham, Mass., Volume 1 (Google eBook), Benjamin Woodbridge Dwight, J. F. Trow & son, printers and bookbinders, 1874, pages 210-211. Downloaded 2011.

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Rev. Henry E. Dwight, MD's Timeline

1797
April 19, 1797
New Haven, CT, USA
1832
August 11, 1832
Age 35
New Haven, CT
????
Yale 1815