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Sarah Orne Jewett

     Dr. Theodore Herman Jewett was born at South Berwick, Maine, on the 24th of March, 1815.

     His ancestors were English, of Danish descent on one side and French on the other, and he was the second son of Capt. Theodore F. Jewett. His childhood was spent in Portsmouth, N. H., the family returning later to South Berwick, when his father gave up, early in life, his business of following the sea.

     He was a delicate boy, caring less for the active sports than for reading, and he soon showed his preference for the life of a student. He was fitted for college at Berwick Academy, which, at that time, took very high rank, and entered Bowdoin College in 1830, at the age of fifteen. Professor Packard, who was his life-long friend, remembers him at that time as a handsome, red-cheeked boy, a most loveable young fellow, somewhat quiet and diffident, but very winning in his manner, and a very great favorite both with the faculty and his classmates." Early during his college course, he decided upon studying medicine, and, from that time until his death, he was always an eager, diligent, untiring student of the profession, which he loved with his whole heart, and to which he did as much honor as any man who ever followed it, if we believe such honor to be in having a rare and noble talent for his work, and a determination to cultivate and use this talent for the good of his fellow-men.

     After his graduation, thinking himself too young to enter upon his medical course, he taught for a year or two at Limerick and at Derry, New Hampshire. He afterwards attended the medical lectures at Hanover and at Boston, studying for two years with Dr. William Perry, of Exeter, N. H., who was a most eminent physician and surgeon, and who pronounces him to have been a most admirable student, of wonderful powers of mind and singularly close habits of observation and study. Dr. Jewett was also, for some time, a student with Dr. WINSLOW LEWIS, of Boston, who also recognized his ability and took the greatest interest in him. He spent a year at the U.S. Marine Hospital in Chelsea, and was also for a time among the city charitable institutions of Boston. He took his degree at the Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, where he spent the winter of 1839.

     After his graduation he had planned to go abroad for some time, to perfect himself in some specialty in the medical schools of Europe, and, on his return, to locate himself in one of our larger cities. But his health was at this time very delicate; he had had several alarming hæmorrhages from the lungs, and his brother had just died with consumption, which it was feared he also had inherited. His father, who was a man of considerable wealth, begged him so persistently not to leave home, that, to use Dr. Jewett's own words, he stayed in Berwick merely to please him, always hoping that after a time the opposition would be removed. And there his life was, for the most part, spent. It could not help being, at times, somewhat a lonely life, for he was shut out from the larger circle of professional friends, with its pleasures and advantages, to which he would have belonged in a city. Not that his ambition ever needed more stimulus than it found, or that he ever felt that his skill had been thrown away, where it was not appreciated. The people in the village and on the lonely farms seldom realized what a man he was, though they put their confidence in him so fully as their doctor and their friend. How much of their care and trouble he helped them carry, how kind and how trustworthy he was in every way, one can never tell. There never was a man in all that region more deeply loved, and no man ever died there at whose loss more tears were shed. He wrought many most wonderful cures, which at times came to the knowledge of men who could appreciate them, but his victories over disease were oftener unheralded and unrecorded, and he was content to have it so, since his wish was not so much to be called great as to be useful, and the service done, he was glad, and there was an end of it. He was always busy, either about his active professional work or in his study, where he kept up with the time in his reading, though he had often anticipated, in his own thought and experience, what was paraded as a brilliant new idea or a novel success.

     Dr. John E. Tyler, late of the McLean Asylum for the Insane, who was one of his oldest and best friends, and who had known the famous medical men of his own country and Europe, said of Dr. Jewett, that he was the best physician of his acquaintance; that his knowledge of therapeutics, and his tact in doing the right thing at the right time and in the right way was marvelous.

     One can only wish that the treasure of wisdom and experience which was his could have been left as an inheritance to some one who could go on with the exercise of its usefulness, but it is believed that such a legacy has been left in part, for he was pre-eminently a teacher; one could not talk with him for even a little while, without being the wiser for it. He was always willing and glad to impart his knowledge to his brother physicians, trying to learn himself and eager to help others whenever he could. In the course of his wide-spread practice as a consulting physician, he left the men whom he met always richer for the practical ideas and suggestions and excellent prescriptions of which his mind was always full. His enthusiasm for his profession was unfailing to the last day of his life. It was never a dull trade to him, and he ministered, as has been truly said, to the souls as well as to the bodies of his patients.

     As a man, he won friends for himself everywhere; his genial, beautiful smile, and rare wit and humor, his unselfishness and kind-heartedness, made his presence seem like sunshine everywhere he went. There was something singularly attractive in his face. Even on a journey, or elsewhere, among entire strangers, he at once roused people's interest, and everybody seemed to recognise the true-hearted gentleman and charming companion at first sight. And the longer one was with him, the more one knew his nobleness and purity of mind, his wonderful insight into human nature, his perfect integrity and hatred of deceit, his great learning in his profession, his accomplished scholarship in general literature, and his unerring common sense. He never was tired of living, and never grew old; his heart was always young, and the thought of him brings to mind these words of the wise old doctor, Sir Thomas Browne, "and since there is something of us that will still live on, join both lives together and live in one but for the other, He who thus ordereth the purpose of this life will never be far from the next."

Whether one speaks of him as a gentleman, the hospitable, generous master of his own house, or the delightful guest, as the skillful, daring surgeon, or quick-sighted, ready, careful physician, as the faithful Christian, with his simplicity and loyalty and perfect trust, and his willing service to his best friend and Master, the Great Physician, it is hard to praise him enough; it is simply impossible to praise him too much.

     Dr. Jewett held for some years the Professorship of Obstetrics and Diseases of Women and Children at the Medical School of Maine, and, during the war, he held the post of Surgeon of the Board of Enrollment for the first district of Maine, at Portland. He was one of the Consulting Surgeons of the Maine General Hospital at Portland, an honorary member of several medical societies, and member of the Maine Historical Society, beside holding many other positions of trust and honor. He took the warmest interest in the welfare of this Association, of which he was, at one time, President, and his address, delivered at its meeting in 1878, has excited the attention it deserves, and has been considered, by the best judges, one of the ablest essays on the practice of medicine ever written.

     Dr. Jewett contributed occasionally to the medical magazines, and presented most learned and valuable papers before this and other medical associations. It is much to be regretted, both that he wrote so little and that he did not keep his published articles together, as no list can be made of them.

     Dr. Jewett died suddenly at the Crawford House, White Mountains, on the 20th of September, 1878, from heart disease, the existence of which he carefully concealed from his family and friends, going bravely on with his work until a short time before his death, of which he showed no fear whatever. He dreaded an old age of enforced idleness, of failing health, and the gradual giving up of the duties of his profession, and it is a cause of gratitude to those who knew him best that he finished his work in this world and went away so quickly to a better one, since it was always his own wish and hope that it might be so.

     He was married in 1842 to Miss Perry, of Exeter, New Hampshire, who survives him with three daughters.

An Account of Dr. Jewett's Death

Every Other Saturday 2 (December 5, 1884)

     Miss Jewett's father was, as we have said, a physician. He had a large practice, and was at one time professor in the Maine Medical School. He graduated in 1834 at Bowdoin College, and died Sept. 20, 1878, at the Crawford House, White Mountains, under touching and peculiar circumstances. We have these from one of his classmates who was visiting at the same hotel. The two had not met for over forty years. Dr. Jewett accosted our informant on the long platform in front of the hotel, offered his hand, and said, "I think you don't remember me!" "No, I do not," was the reply, "although there is something about you that I recall." Dr. Jewett stepped back, raised his hand, and exclaimed,--

     "Oh, who would soar the solar height
               To sink in such a starless night!"
     and exclaimed, "Do you remember that?"

     "Why, that was an extract from Byron in my commencement part, almost fifty years ago." "Yes, and do you remember me now?" "But how changed!" The classmates then had a long conversation. There was much to say on both sides. On parting for the night, the doctor remarked that he had not been well, and had come away for rest. The next morning, they met on the platform just after breakfast, where Doctor Jewett took his friend's hands, and said with deep feeling: "I'm quite poorly. I must get home. I shall take the next train." The other remonstrated, but to no effect. The doctor turned and entered the house, when he fell and expired instantly. It was a terrible shock to the whole household. No language can adequately describe the effect upon his wife and one daughter who were travelling with him. The good physician's intention to leave that day was in part realized. All that was mortal did go "in the train"; and, as the latter slowly passed along and disappeared below the Notch, the old friend and classmate gazed long into the distance, and then slowly passed to his room, a sadder, if not a wiser man. There was also a feeling that the ancients were right in the doctrine that those who pass away so suddenly are indeed favored of the gods. But, for the survivors, how hard it is!

Crawford Notch

Train station at Crawford Notch
Viewed from the approximate location of the former Crawford House
where Dr. Jewett died.

Photo by Terry Heller
4 October 2016


Richard Cary in "Some Bibliographic Ghosts of Sarah Orne Jewett," in Colby Library Quarterly (8:3, Sept. 1968, p. 140) attributes this obituary piece on her father to Jewett. "Theodore Herman Jewett, M.D. of South Berwick" appeared in Transactions of the Maine Medical Association, 1877-1879 (6, 1879, pp. 680-684). Though the author is listed as J. W. Beede, M.D., Cary points out that the statements in the Necrology Committee Report, from which this comes, were "presented precisely as they were furnished by the respective friends of the deceased." Cary goes on to say "There would seem little doubt that this tribute to Dr. Jewett's 'treasure of wisdom and experience' was penned by his adoring daughter." It turns out that Cary almost certainly is correct.  A manuscript of this essay in Jewett's hand is in the Houghton Library at Harvard University: MS Am 1743.22 (28).
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Berwick Academy ... Bowdoin College: Jewett and her father both were educated at the Berwick Academy in South Berwick, one of the top prep schools in New England in the nineteenth century. See "The Old Town of Berwick" for further information about the school. Bowdoin College in New Brunswick, Maine, was a well-known and respected college, as it remains today; Nathaniel Hawthorne and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow are among the more famous graduates.
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Limerick ... Derry, New Hampshire: Theodore Jewett worked as a school teacher for a couple years, according to Paula Blanchard in Sarah Orne Jewett. Presumably these are the towns where he kept school.
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medical lectures at Hanover and at Boston: Blanchard also reports that Dr. Jewett's early medical education was informal. This included attending lectures at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, but Jewett's biographers do not specify where in Boston he attended lectures.
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U. S. Marine Hospital in Chelsea: Castle Island in Boston Harbor was chosen as the temporary site for the first marine hospital. Dr. Thomas Welsh, a Harvard College graduate (1772) and participant in the Revolutionary War battles of both Lexington and Bunker Hill, was appointed as the physician in charge in 1799. (Research: Chris Butler).
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Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia: Jefferson Medical College was founded in 1824. It is connected with the Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. (Research: Chris Butler).
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the McLean Asylum for the Insane: This was located in Charlestown, near Boston, in the 19th century. (Research: Chris Butler).
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 Sir Thomas Browne: Sir Thomas Browne (1605-1682).  Jewett uses this quotation in at least two other works:  "The Foreigner" and in her father's obituary.  In the final paragraph of Browne's "Letter to a Friend," (1690), Browne says:

Time past is gone like a shadow; make Times to come, present; conceive that near which may be far off; approximate thy last Times by present Apprehensions of them: live like a Neighbour unto Death, and think there is but little to come. And since there is something in us that must still live on, joyn both Lives together; unite them in thy Thoughts and Actions, and live in one but for the other. He who thus ordereth the Purposes of this Life, will never be far from the next; and is in some manner already in it, by an happy Conformity, and close Apprehension of it.
"Letter to a Friend" was largely reproduced in Christian Morals (1716), where the passage occurs in the last paragraph, this time somewhat closer to Jewett's wording:
Time past is gone like a Shadow; make time to come present. Approximate thy latter times by present apprehensions of them: be like a neighbour unto the Grave, and think there is but little to come. And since there is something of us that will still live on, Join both lives together, and live in one but for the other. He who thus ordereth the purposes of this Life will never be far from the next, and is in some manner already in it, by a happy conformity, and close apprehension of it. And if, as we have elsewhere declared, any have been so happy as personally to understand Christian Annihilation, Extasy, Exolution, Transformation, the Kiss of the Spouse, and Ingression into the Divine Shadow, according to Mystical Theology, they have already had an handsome Anticipation of Heaven; the World is in a manner over, and the Earth in Ashes unto them.
(Research by James Eason, University of Chicago.)
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his Master, the Great Physician: Refers to Jesus Christ, who can be seen as a model physician in offering comfort and healing for body and spirit.
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the Medical School of Maine: The Medical School of Maine was founded in 1820, and permanently closed its doors in 1921. During its time in Brunswick, Maine, the school awarded over 2,000 degrees. (Research: Chris Butler).
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during the war: The American Civil War of 1861-1865.
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his address, delivered at its meeting in 1878: I have found as yet no record of Jewett giving an address to the Maine Medical Association in 1878, the year of his death, though it is possible he did so. One of his earlier public speeches was well-known and had been published: Elements of Success in the Medical Profession. Introductory Lecture Delivered Before the Students of the Medical Department of Bowdoin College, February 21, 1867 was published as a 28 page book in 1869.
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Crawford House, White Mountains: Elizabeth Silverthorne in Sarah Orne Jewett (83-4) recounts Dr. Jewett's death in some detail, placing it in the Crawford House at Crawford Notch in New Hampshire's White Mountains.  Wikipedia says that the Crawford House burned in 1977.  Wikipedia also says that Crawford Notch was named for the Abel Crawford, an explorer, trail-builder and hosteler in the early 19th century.
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soar the solar height:  The couplet is from George Gordon, Lord Byron's, "Ode to Napoleon Buonaparte" (1814); there it reads:

But who would soar the solar height,   
To set in such a starless night?

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wiser man:  Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem, "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" (1798) ends

He went like one that hath been stunned,
And is of sense forlorn:
A sadder and a wiser man,
He rose the morrow morn.

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favored of the gods:  Perhaps the author refers to the statement, "Those whom the gods love die young."  The idea has been attributed to various classical sources.
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Edited and annotated by Terry Heller with assistance from Chris Butler, Coe College.

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Uncollected Essays