As Obookiah, at the time of his entrance into the school at Cornwall, had arrived at an age of considerable maturity, it may be proper that a more particular description should now be given of his person and character.
He was considerably above the ordinary size: but little less than six feet in height, and in his limbs and body proportionably large. His form, which at sixteen was awkward and unshapen, had become erect, graceful, and dignified.
His countenance had lost every mark of dulness; and was, in an unusual degree, sprightly, and intelligent. His features were strongly marked. They were expressive of a sound and penetrating mind. He had a piercing eye, a prominent Roman nose, and a projecting chin.
His complexion was olive, varied equally from the blackness of the African, and the redness of the Indian. His hair was black,
worn short, and dressed after the manner of the Americans.
In his disposition he was amiable and affectionate. His temper was mild. Passion was not easily excited, nor long retained Revenge, or resentment, it if presumed, was never known to be cherished in his heart.
He loved his friends, and was grateful for the favours which he received from them. In his journal and letters are found frequent expressions of affection and gratitude to those who had been his benefactors.
To families in which he had lived, or to individuals who had been his particular patrons, he felt an ardent attachment. One of the latter, who had been separated from him for a considerable time, he met with great delight; …
… and after the first customary salutations, said to him, ‘I want to see you great while: you don’t know how you seem to me: you seem like father, mother, brother, all.’
In his understanding, Obookiah excelled ordinary young men. His mind was not of a common cast. It was such, that, with proper culture, it might have become a mind of the first order.
Its distinguishing traits were sound common sense, keen discernment, and an inquisitiveness or enterprise which disposed him to look as far as his mind could reach into every subject that was presented to his attention.
By his good sense he was accustomed to view subjects of every kind in their proper light; to see things as they are. He seldom misconceived or misjudged.
By his companions his counsel was sought, and regarded as decisive. He had that clear sense of propriety with regard to his own conduct and the conduct of others, which always commands the respect or excites the fear of those who behold it.
Had he been disposed to cultivate a talent for this purpose, he would have become one of the severest of critics upon the manners and conduct of those around him.
Few persons have a deeper insight into the characters of men, or have the power of forming a more just estimate of them, by
their words and actions, than he had.
Few are more capable of perceiving the exact import of language, or are less liable to be deceived as to its real meaning, by a designed ambiguity of terms.
His inquisitiveness existed in relation to all subjects of interest, and disposed him to make himself acquainted with every thing that was known by others, and to discover whatever was within hill reach. The trait was exhibited, especially, in his character as a scholar.
His inquisitive mind was not satisfied with pursuing the usual round of study, but he was disposed to understand critically every
branch of knowledge to which he attended. For this reason, his progress in his studies was not rapid – but as a scholar he was industrious, ingenious and thorough.
His mind was also inventive. After having acquired some slight knowledge of the English language in its grammatical construction, he entered upon the project of reducing to system his own native language.
As it was not a written language, but lay in its chaotic state, every thing was to be done. With some assistance he had made considerable progress towards completing a grammar, a dictionary, and a spelling-book. He had also translated into his native language the whole of the book of Genesis.
These specimens of his industry and ingenuity, when seen, administer severe reproof to the sloth and dulness of most persona of much greater age, and of advantages far superior to his own.
When Obookiah became a member of the Foreign Mission School, he had attended to all the common branches of English education.
In reading, writing, and spelling, he was perhaps as perfect as most young men of our country, of the same age and with common opportunities.
He wrote a legible, manly hand, and acquired the habit of writing with considerable rapidity. He had at this time studied the English Grammar so far as to be able to parse most sentences with readiness. He understood the important rules in common Arithmetic, and had obtained considerable knowledge of Geography.
He had studied also one book of Euclid’s Elements of Geometry, and of his own accord, without a regular instructer, he had acquired such knowledge of the Hebrew, that he had been able to read several chapters for the Hebrew Bible, and had translated a few passages into his native language.
He had a peculiar relish for the Hebrew language, and from its resemblance to his own, acquired it with great facility.
The winter before he came to the school he commenced the study of Latin. This, he pursued principally after he became a member of the Institution.
In his manners, Obookiah was habitually grave and reserved. In the presence of his friends, however, his conversation was often sprightly, and rendered particularly entertaining, by a fondness for humour, for which he was distinguished.
This he oftener exhibited by a quick perception and relish for it in others, than by actually displaying it in himself. Yet he sometimes gave evidence in his own remarks, of possessing no small degree of genuine wit.
When conversing with his companions in their native language, he frequently afforded them much amusement by the pleasant and humorous cast of his conversation.
The customary deportment of Obookiah, however, was serious, and dignity strikingly characterized his manners. Few young men, it is presumed, command so much respect from persons of every age and character.
Notwithstanding the familiarity which he used with his companions, he maintained an influence over them, becoming the relation of an elder brother, or even that of a respected parent.
In his intercourse with them the dignity of hill character was peculiarly visible. A motion of his head often made known to them his will, and obtained the compliance which he desired.
His manners had become in a considerable degree refined. A gentleman of respectability who visited Cornwall, and had a particular interview with him, observed, that he had met with but few persons of any country, more gentlemanly in their manners in intelligent and interesting in their conversation.
Obookiah was a decided and consistent Christian. His conduct was habitually under the influence of principles of piety. He manifested a strong interest in the general prosperity of religion, and expressed in his conversation, as well as his letters and diary …
… ardent desires for the salvation of his fellowmen and especially of his countrymen, for whom he fervently prayed, and in whose behalf he often requested the earnest prayers of his friends. (All text is from Memoirs of Obookiah)