A handwritten diary kept by James M. Chaney while he was studying at the Princeton Theological Seminary in New Jersey. It includes 40 pages of near daily entries between December 15, 1853 and March 18, 1854, followed by 115 pages of lecture notes, along with resolutions he made for himself and tributes to God.
Chaney records his daily activities, correspondence with family at home, general health (he’s often bilious), and his inner thoughts. He also chastises himself for not doing more to serve God and expresses doubt about his ability to serve. One of his classes required public speaking exercises. “I felt strange when I knew I was soon to be called upon to speak,” he wrote. “I felt stranger when going to the platform. I looked down upon near a hundred students with all eyes upon me. But thrice in the previous hour had I asked assistance from above, and I was heard, for soon my heart ceased its throbbing and I was composed and went through without any difficulty.”
Princeton Theological Seminary was established in 1812, and was the first Seminary founded by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church. Its founding marked a turning point in American theological education.
Chaney’s diary opened with a note that he spent 50 cents for the diary to record his thoughts: “It will, I hope, do me good; make me examine not only the state of my heart, but all of my actions.” On February 4, he recorded that he purchased Gibbons Decline and Fall, Hume’s History of England along with some other titles, in all 14 volumes, for which he paid $4.97.
In his final entry, on March 18, Chaney contemplated his future and expressed concern about finances as he was unable to write home for money. “I have been troubled about what to do,” he wrote. “The whole winter I determined I would start out this spring and make money by selling books, but I will not do it. To be a colporteur I would with joy, but I could make nothing, I need money, and many things prevent my going. To go as a book peddler to make money as my chief object I will not do. I would rather go to California, teach or do something else.”
Chaney was born in Salem, Massachusetts. According to ancestry records, he became a mariner and died at age 30 from typhoid fever. His younger brother, George, became a prominent Unitarian minister.
Octavo (5” x 7 ½”). The blue paper leaves of the diary are bound in the original limp black calf. Mild toning to the contents. The leather is scuffed along the extremities, with a short split to the bottom of the front joint and some loss to the tips. Item #74394