Bowdoin Commencement 1852
Chamberlain would remember in his autobiography
All these late laxities did not prevent our senior from receiving a Commencement assignment of the first rank. He thought it would be a sympathetic and fining subject for this occasion to present himself on the arena with The Last Gladiatorial Show at Rome.
All would perhaps have gone well had it not been for the abnormal action of that mysterious â€œtertium quidâ€ called â€œthe nervous system.â€ But the presence in the closeÂ¬crowding and crowded galleries of certain friends whose love and pride were at utmost tension, gave occasion for the evil one to interpose some of his mockeries of human ambition. Some slight occurrence among the distinguished audience, for that was the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the organization of the College, and all the dignitaries of the nation were represented there, disturbed the anxious balance of the speakerâ€™s self-possession, and he stopped short. Our gladiator was hit; the adversary had broken down his guard. For a moment all around him swum and swayed into a mist. But he only reeled, half-turned, and paced the stage, grasping some evidently extemporaneous and strangely far-fetched phrases, then suddenly whirling to the front, with more blood in his face than would have flowed from Caesarâ€™s â€œmorituri salutamus,â€ he delivered his conclusion straight out from the shoulder like those who are determined to die early. That public failure lessened the pang of parting. The crestfallen champion was glad to get out of town.
This experience revived the question whether it was best to go to West Point where he would have to stand his hand, or to the Theological Seminary where he could read his sermons. Was not this â€œa call to preachâ€? At any rate the latter was nearer home, and the base of supplies. So that fall saw the gladiator in the Bangor Theological Seminary.
Many many thanks to Thomas Desjardin for providing this document.