was in college I had but a short participation of your agreeable friendship, and the few persons I converse with and yet fewer, whose conversation I delight in, make me regret the Loss of it. I have met with a variety of rebuffs this year, which I forbear to mention, I look like an unmeaning Teague just turn'd out of the hold of an irish Ship coming down hither I met with a rare adventure at Annapolis. I was destitute even of a brass farthing. I got clear very handsomely.
"Could one expect ever to see you again, if I travel through Virginia I shall stop and talk with you a day or two. I should be very glad to receive a letter from you if it can be conveniently forwarded—in short 'Non sum qualis eram' as Partridge says in Tom Jones—My hair is grown like a mop, and I have a huge tuft of beard directly upon my chin—I want but five weeks of twenty-one years of age and already feel stiff with age—We have about 30 Students in this academy, who prey upon me like Leaches—'When shall I quit this whimpering pack, and hide my head in Acomack?'—Shall I leave them and go 'Where Pokomokes long stream meandering flows—
"Excuse this prodigious scrawl without stile or sense—I send this by Mr. Luther Martin who will forward it to Col. Lee—and he to you I hope. Mr. Martin lives in Acomack in Virginia this side the bay. Farewell and be persuaded I remain your
truly humble Serv't and friend
The scene of Freneau's new labors was the famous old school near Princess Anne, Md., which in 1779 was incorporated as Washington Academy. Brackenridge became Master here shortly after his graduation, and in the words of his son and biographer, received "a handsome salary." "He continued here," says his biographer, "during several years until the breaking out of the American Revolution, in the midst of a wealthy and highly polished society, greatly respected as a man of genius and scholarship. He used to speak with the pride of a Porson, of the Winders, the Murrays, the Parnells and others who afterward became distinguished." For many years the academy drew to it the sons of the best families of Northern Virginia, Maryland and Delaware.
The length of Freneau's stay in Maryland is uncertain. There is evidence that he remained as Second Master of the school for several years. There is a tradition in the family that it was the wish of Freneau's father that he study divinity and that for a time he joined with Brackenridge in preparing for this profession; and there is another, which is very persistent, that he left Maryland to study the law in Philadelphia, but I can find no positive evidence. The period between 1772 and 1775 is at best a vague one in our life of the poet.
In the early summer of 1775, Freneau suddenly appeared in New York as a publicist of remarkable fluency. Before November he had issued no less than eight long poems as separate publications, nearly all of them called forth by the new crisis in American affairs. Beginning with "American Liberty," issued by Anderson, the editor of the new patriotic weekly, The Constitutional Gazette, he published pamphlet after pamphlet in rapid succession, all of them throwing upon Gage and the British cause in Boston all the satire and invective which he had used so mercilessly in the old society war at Princeton. Two of these were published by Hugh Gaine, and another, "The Voyage to Boston," first issued by Anderson, was reprinted at once in Philadelphia. All of them have fared hardly during the years. Several, like "General Gage's Soliloquy," and "Timothy Taurus," which recounts the story of a journey made by Freneau to Passaic Falls, near Paterson, New Jersey, in August, have disappeared entirely, one of them, the "General Gage's Confession," has never been republished in any form, and all the others were cut down and altered by the author for later editions until they were almost in every respect entirely new poems.
That these voluminous and vigorous tirades, which their author evidently poured forth with perfect ease, were criticised and condemned by the fastidious we have no evidence. Certain it is that judging by the contemporary newspaper press they were exceedingly popular. Yet, in November we find Freneau in a sad state of discouragement, ready to give up forever all association with the muses. Some one, envious of his rising fame, has criticised him unmercifully. He seeks out the old Clio-Whig satires and after adapting and reshaping them he hurls them at the head of his enemy whom he designates as McSwiggen.
Great Jove in wrath a spark of genius gave
And bade me drink the mad Pierian wave,
Hence came those rhymes with truth ascribed to me,
That urge your little soul to jealousy.
* * * * *
Devoted mad man what inspired your rage,
Who bade your foolish muse with us engage?
Against a windmill would you try your might,
Against a castle would a pigmy fight?
The young poet had begun to realize how barren was the new world in poetic appreciation; how impossible it was for even a true poet to practice his art where few could appreciate, and none really cared: