James Gates Percival

Charles D. Cleveland, in Compendium of American Literature (1858) 367-68.

This distinguished scholar, philosopher, and poet was born at Berlin, Connecticut, September 15th, 1795, and graduated at Yale College, in 1815, with high honor. After leaving college, he entered the medical school connected with the same, and received the degree of M.D. He did not, however, engage in practice; but devoted himself chiefly to the cultivation of his poetical powers, and to the pursuits of science and literature. In 1820, he published his first volume of poems and in 1822, another volume, tinder the name of "Clio." In 1824, he was for a short time in the service of the United States, as Professor of Chemistry in the Military Academy at West Point, and subsequently, as a surgeon connected with the recruiting station at Boston. But his tastes lay in a different direction, and he gave himself to the Muses, and to historical, philological, and scientific pursuits. In 1827 he was employed to revise the manuscript of Dr. Webster's large Dictionary, and not long after this he published a corrected translation of Malte-Brun's Geography. In 1835, he was appointed, in connection with Professor C. A. Shepard, to make a survey of the Geology and Mineralogy of the State of Connecticut. Dr. Percival took charge of the Geological part, and his report thereon was published in 1842. In 1843, appeared, at New Haven, his last published volume of miscellaneous poetry, entitled The Dream of Day and other Poems. In 1854, he was appointed State Geologist of Wisconsin, and his first Report on that survey was published in January, 1855. The larger part of this year he spent in the field. While preparing his second report, his health gave way, and after a gentle decline, he expired on the 2d. of May, 1856, at Hazel Green, Wisconsin.

However much distinguished Mr. Percival is for his classical learning, and for his varied attainments in philology and general science, he will be chiefly known to posterity as one of the most eminent of our poets, for the richness of his fancy, the copiousness and beauty of his language, his life like descriptions, his sweet and touching pathos, as well as, at times, his spirited and soul-stirring measures.