plantation. Heretofore the elder Freneau had made it of secondary importance. He had used it as a summer resort, and as a pleasant relief to the monotony of his city business, but now, perhaps on account of failing health, he determined to devote to it all of his energies. Philip was left behind in New York. For the next three years he lived at a boarding school in the city, going home only during the long vacations. At the age of thirteen he was sent to the Latin school at Penolopen, then presided over by the Rev. Alexander Mitchell, to prepare for college.
The father of the family died Oct. 17, 1767. This, however, did not disturb the plans of the eldest son, and on Nov. 7, 1768, he entered the sophomore class at Princeton so well prepared that President Witherspoon is said to have sent a letter of congratulation to his mother.
Of the college life of Philip Freneau we have only fragmentary records. He was in his sixteenth year when he entered, a somewhat dreamy youth who had read very widely, especially in the English poets and the Latin classics, and who already commanded a facile pen, especially in the field of heroic verse. During the year in which he entered Princeton he composed two long poems, "The History of the Prophet Jonah," and "The Village Merchant,"—surely notable work for the pen of a college sophomore. During the following year he wrote "The Pyramids of Egypt," and before his graduation he had completed several other pieces, some of them full of real poetic inspiration.
The period during which Freneau resided at Princeton was a most significant one. In the same class with him were James Madison, H. H. Brackenridge, the author of "Modern Chivalry" and a conspicuous figure in later Pennsylvania history, and Samuel Spring, who was to become widely influential in religious circles. In the class below him were the refined and scholarly William Bradford and the brilliant Aaron Burr. The shadow of the coming struggle with Great Britain was already lengthening over the Colonies and nowhere was its presence more manifest than in the colleges, always the most sensitive areas in times of tyranny and oppression. On August 6, 1770, the senior class at Princeton voted unanimously to appear at commencement dressed in American manufactures.
Another circumstance made the period a notable one. On June 24, 1769, a little band of students, headed by Madison, Brackenridge, Bradford and Freneau, organized an undergraduate fraternity to be called the American Whig Society. One year later The Well Meaning Club, a rival literary organization founded in 1765, became the Cliosophic Society. The act was the signal for a war, the echoes of which have even yet not died away at Princeton. There exists a manuscript book, rescued from the papers of William Bradford, in which are preserved the poetic tirades, called forth in this first onset. Its title page is as follows:
"Satires | against the Tories. | Written in the last War between the Whigs & Cliosophians | in which | the former obtained a compleat Victory.
—Arm'd for virtue now we point the pen
Brand the bold front of shameless, guilty men
Dash the proud Tory in his gilded Car
Bare the mean heart that hides beneath a star."
It opens with ten "pastorals" by Brackenridge, of which the ninth begins thus:
"Spring's Soliloquy that morning before he hung himself.
O World adieu! the doleful time draws nigh
I cannot live and yet I fear to die
Warford is dead! and in his turn Freneau
Will send me headlong to the shades below.
What raging fury or what baleful Star
Did find—ingulph me in the whiggish war
The deeds of darkness which my soul hath done
Are now apparent as the noon-day sun
A Thousand things as yet remain untold
My secret practice and my sins of old."
Then follow several satires by Freneau, full of fire and invective, but like the work of all the others, not always refined or quotable in print. His satire, "McSwiggen," printed in 1775, contains nearly half of the poems,—the only lines indeed which are of any real merit. The three concluding poems of the collection, and these by all means the worst of the lot, are from no less a pen than Madison's. No patriotic citizen will ever venture to resurrect them.
There is a tradition very widely current that Freneau was for a time the room-mate of Madison. However this may be, there is no question as to who was his most intimate friend. With Brackenridge he had much in common. Both had dreams of a literary life, both had read largely in polite literature, both scribbled constantly in prose and verse. In the same manuscript volume with the Clio-Whig satires there is an extensive fragment of a novel written alternately by Brackenridge and Freneau, between September 20th and October 22d, 1770. Its manuscript title page is as follows:
"Father Bombo's | Pilgrimage to Mecca in Arabia. | Vol. II. | Wherein is given a true account of the innumerable and | surprizing adventures which befell him in the course of that | long and tedious Journey, | Till he once more returned safe to his native Land, as related | by his own mouth. | Written By B. H. and P. F.—1770.
Fabula de te narratur—Hor.
Change but the name
The story's told of you.
The adventures of the hero read like chapters from the "Arabian Nights." He has been for seven days a close captive on a French man-of-war, but he is rescued by an Irish privateer, only to be taken for a wizard and thrown overboard in a cask which is finally washed ashore on the north coast of Ireland. It would be useless to recount all of his adventures both afloat and ashore. He finally succeeds in reaching Mecca, and in returning safely home to America. The final chapter recounts the details of his death and moralizes on his life and character.
The work is crude and hasty. Whole chapters of it were evidently written at one sitting. The part signed H. B. is unquestionably the best; the prose is vigorous and the movement rapid. The only merit in Freneau's section lies in its lyric lament at the close of one of the chapters. The hero suddenly bursts into minor song, the opening stanzas of which are:
Sweet are the flow'rs that crown the Vale
And sweet the spicy breathing Gale
That murmurs o'er the hills:
See how the distant lowing throng
Thro' verdant pastures move along,
Or drink the Limpid Streams and crystal rills.
Ah see in yonder gloomy Grove