John Ledyard, The Traveller, in the Household of the Hartford Seymours
JOHN LEDYARD, THE TRAVELLER, IN THE HOUSEHOLD OF THE HARTFORD SEYMOURS
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Jared Sparks (1789-1866) in his preface–1828–to his “Life of John Ledyard The American Traveller” said, “Particular acknowledgment is due to Mr. Henry Seymour (1764-1846) of Hartford, Connecticut, for the aid he has rendered….” Seymour and young Ledyard (1751-1789) were first cousins; and the author doubts if there was anyone living from whom Sparks could have obtained as much information as from Seymour about Ledyard, whose fame as a traveller, at the time Sparks corresponded with Seymour, resounded throughout the civilized world. Ledyard, after the remarriage of his mother, removed to Hartford and became a member of the household of his grandfather, John Ledyard, in Hartford, where he entered the Grammar or Latin school, founded by Governor Hopkins (1600-1657) and now absorbed in the Hartford Public High School. After the death of his grandfather Ledyard in 1771, the young man was placed under the guardianship of Colonel Thomas Seymour (afterwards the First Mayor) whose wife, Mary Ledyard, was his aunt. His uncle was then King's Attorney, and he studied law for a while in his offices. But law was too severe a mistress for a spirit so restless and adventuresome; and the young man accepted an invitation of Eleazer Whitlock, a friend of his grandfather Ledyard, to Dartmouth College, established two years before at Hanover, New Hampshire, “amidst the forests on the banks of the Connecticut River.” Here Ledyard entertained himself and the students by the production of several tragedies, including Addison's Cato, from which Hale derived his immortal last words. In a few months he floated alone down the Connecticut River in a canoe of his own making and surprised the Seymours.
Fascinating as the subject is, this is not the time nor the place for rehearsing the story of John Ledyard, the Traveller, more than to say that after many adventures on land and sea, he returned to Hartford; and in the forepart of 1782 again became a member of the Seymour household in which he wrote his celebrated book, “A Journal of Captain Cook's Last Voyage to the Pacific Ocean,” published in 1783. Surely no book of adventure was ever written in Hartford equal to this story, put on paper in the old Seymour Homestead on Governor Street, where we may well believe that the subsequent vicissitudes of the Traveller were of all- absorbing interest to the Hartford Seymours and their friends. It is more than likely that when the old homestead was dismantled and its papers sold or destroyed, many letters of John Ledyard, the Traveller, were lost.