HENRY WILMARTH HAZZEN was born in Weare, N. H., April 14, 1842. From his earliest boyhood he manifested the traits of character which distinguished him in manhood. He was thoughtful, poetic, dreamy, studious, and even then was endowed with a strong sense of justice, and sympathy with all who suffered. His early surroundings were not in harmony with his finely attuned spirit. There was no outlook for the unfolding of his rare talents, and his passion for study and the acquisition of knowledge was severely repressed. His early life, consequently, became a struggle which was prolonged to manhood.
All the while, he was encouraged by the few who recognized his genius, and by the steady progress he made towards the goal of his high ambition. He always felt that he had been severely defrauded in failing to secure a thorough classical training. But if he lost in this respect, he gained in other directions, for he utilized the few opportunities afforded him so thoroughly, that no college education could have done more for him. He acquired a power of concentration during those days that served him through life; a power of will that could not be defeated when he had decided on a line of study, work, or conduct; a devotion to what he believed to be right and true, that never faltered or doubted; and he developed a glowing enthusiasm that glorified and made easy all his future labors.
He studied law, and was admitted to the Hillsborough County, N. H., bar in 1870, and for a time was a legal practitioner. It frequently happens that the practice of law dulls the moral sense, for divine law and human law are by no means synonymous. But this was not the case with Mr. Hazzen. He readily detected the fallibilities of the civil law, and never hesitated to condemn them, and to urge righteous legislation.
He became interested in public affairs, and took an interest in shaping them, canvassing his native state in their behalf, where he is remembered by his contemporaries as a brilliant and ready orator. Honest in every fiber of his being, scorning to lend his influence in behalf of any measure that was even equivocal, he could never be induced, as a lawyer, to plead for a cause whose rightfulness was not clearly apparent. Nor would he accept as a client any person whose case was not perfectly just. For such a man the law has few rewards, and it was not strange that he came to feel the need of more congenial employment.
In November, 1877, Mr. Hazzen married Isabel F. Dearborn, teacher of music in the Mt. Carroll Seminary, Illinois. He took the position of teacher of history and literature in the same institution, and held it till 1896, when the school was transferred to Chicago University. With his marriage a new life dawned upon him. The wedded couple were friends from early childhood, and affianced lovers while he was in the strenuous struggle for education and position. It was an ideal marriage, and made the earthly heaven of both during the next twenty-two years. During his last visit to the writer of this sketch, he spoke of his wife with even more than usual tenderness, and he was always beautiful in his devotion to her. "Do you remember what Chevalier Bunsen said to his wife when he was dying?" he inquired. "'In thy face I have seen the Eternal!' During my illness I have been all the way on Mount Pisgah," he continued, "and the face of my wife has been to me like that of the Heavenly Father."
Mr. Hazzen's work in Mt. Carroll Seminary was of a high order. He impressed himself upon his students in his class work and by his lectures, so that they came to love literature, and studied the great authors as enthusiastically as did their teacher. They were familiarized with the histories of the nations whose graves lie along the highway of the past, and with the literatures they created. With the history and literature of modern Europe they were equally well acquainted, for it was not possible to be a pupil of Mr. Hazzen and not have a delightful acquaintance with the German and English classics. He was at home in the literatures of all countries and ages, and was the welcome guest of Whittier and Emerson, Holmes and Longfellow.
He was a great devourer of books, and was not confined in his studies to history and literature. He plunged into philosophy, theology, and psychology, and gave the result of his reading in lectures replete with wise common sense and brilliancy. He was a devout and reverent student of the Bible. He never wearied of presenting its lofty ethics, the spirituality of the religion of the New Testament, and the mighty power it had been in developing a high civilization. And he always grew eloquent and enthusiastic when he presented the Bible as literature, and read from the Psalms and the Prophets in his fine oratorical style. Mr. Hazzen was endowed with a high order of imaginative power, and in his best moments, when he aspired to climb "the altar stairs that slope through darkness up to God," he expressed himself in poetry. Largeness of thought and feeling inspire his poems, which are not many, and they palpitate with earnestness and courage.
During his twenty years connection with Mt. Carroll Seminary, he made hosts of friends, who loved him for his great heart, his unselfishness, his sincerity, and his simplicity. He was the most popular of teachers, and his pupils, scattered through the West, realize that life has been made richer and fuller to them through his instructions. "Capacity for pain" is not unfrequently "a mark of rank in nature." It is not possible for one to speak nobly who does not feel profoundly, and nature has so blended suffering with power, that it sometimes has the relation of cause to effect. While Mr. Hazzen thrilled to the joyousness of nature, with a soul attuned to its subtlest harmonies, he was often smitten with sore pain as he looked out on the conflict of life, its incompleteness and unrest. But he was never morbid, and wrote and talked only the highest philosophy and the divinest optimism.
It seems strange that one who was so vigorous physically, and who was endowed with such spiritual strength, should have fallen on the march so early. But he put so much of himself into his work, and spent his vital force so prodigally in the attainment or his purposes, that he bankrupted himself of nervous force when he should have been at his best. It was a slow decline at first, concerning which no one felt anxious. "A few weeks' rest will bring him up again!" was the general prophecy. But recuperation did not follow the rest of vacation. The weary months went by, and it became apparent that the Lord had need of him in another world than ours, and that human love and skill could not detain him here. But through all the languor and weariness of his decline, his soul dwelt on the heights. "I seem to live very near the heart of God!" he said on one occasion. And at another time he told us, "I have had visions of what is to come that I should not dare utter!" His spirit wore out the body, as the sword wears away the scabbard. It was hoped that he might be helped by the treatment of the Battle Creek Sanitarium, Michigan, and he was placed in its care. But it did not avail, and surrounded by friends, with his beloved wife in attendance upon him, he passed away, November 26, 1899.