W-MCP5-6.338 TO [DR.] CALVIN BROOKS MCQUESTEN from J.C.L. Learned
Dec 21 1859
To: [Dr.] Calvin Brooks McQuesten, Meriden, New Hampshire, [U.S.A.]
From: Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, [U.S.A.]
My Friend McQuesten,
Your letter, I think, was written about the middle of November and should have been answered ere this but for the "accumulation of other duties" as those who neglect correspondents always say. But a vacation you remember has intervened during which there was not the least bit in the world of running round to do--which I did.
I enjoyed my Thanksgiving as I seldom do although I was as usual away from home at that time. I had a complete frolic with the Orphan children of the Boston Farm School, played all sorts of games, and was the most boyish boy among them. We ran and rollicked and laughed & sang and danced the day through & I got well acquainted with them, and when it was bedtime and prayers were said, a hundred happy boys came & took me by the hand and bade me a goodnight. I found a good mood for each one, and be assured my interest in those fatherless ones was not lessened by my stay with them. I presume no school of the kind in the U.S. is better managed than this: any one can spend a day profitably & pleasantly there.1
When you wrote me your eyes were troubling you, which I hope you are by this relieved from. I was much interested in your description of the little matters of Meriden & school and shall expect you to post me as usual. I doubt not you had a good time "taking off" those ladies & Prof. Richards, but you were hardly as safe in the scheme as I was. If the "teachers" do, all must be well! and no accusation can be brought.
I presume you hear some views expressed on the Jno. [John] Brown invasion.2 What is the general opinion? Law students here--as many are from the South--I fancy have some warm times. Tonight one of the most powerful things on slavery for the season will be delivered by Rev. Wm. R. Alger at the Tremont Temple.3 He has been some time preparing this Lecture and I doubt not it will tell as his words are apt to. He is one of the most popular men in Boston at this time. His church is completely crowded at his course of Sunday evening lectures.
Page's Venus4 in the Art line has been creating some excitement tho' not a painting above criticism if my eyes are good. But of course much allowance must be made to any painter who undertakes the extremely delicate matter of portraying a perfectly nude figure. For it is doubtless a masterpiece. Miss [Sanders?] sculpture5 is also attracting attention of which I have some four pieces. One, Longfellow's "Evangeline," is valued at 1500 dollars, in many respects, a charming piece.
There is now hardly snow enough for sleighing. It snows and then it rains, but I suppose you are revelling in all [?] may from 2 to 4 feet.
How's the doctor? & Mrs. Duncan? Mr. Thayer's folks? I should like to see some of them again but when I shall is doubtful. Moody made me a call when he got back from N.Y. [or N.J.] and I got what news he had to spare.
As even we are having good times here and Christmas is right at hand,
wishing you a merry one, & trusting I shall hear again from you soon, I remain,
[Note on envelope:] J.C.L. Ans. 16/1/60
1 The Boston Farm School Society (BFSS) was established in 1833 to care for indigent boys and to teach them agricultural skills. The BFSS purchased Thompson's Island (TI) in Boston Harbor from the town of Dorchester as the home of their farm and school. The Rev. E.M.P. Wells was among the founders and the BFSS school's first superintendent. Wells was the former Head of House of Juvenile Offenders at South Boston, and oversaw construction and daily operations of the school. For financial reasons, in 1835 the BFSS and the BAIB, which shared a similar mission, merged and formed the Boston Asylum and Farm School for Indigent Boys, or the Boston Farm School (BFS) on TI. During the 19th century, the school population usually numbered 100 boys. The length of a boy's stay varied. For some boys, parents paid boarding fees.
Under the supervision of the superintendent and with staff, which included teachers, farmers, a matron and others, BFS boys lived on the island, worked on the farm and in the asylum, served as boat crew, and attended classes on academic and agricultural subjects. The school claimed it was the first elementary school in the United States that taught agricultural subjects. In 1854, according to BFS's literature, it established the first school band in the country. BFS began to emphasize school work and soon school classes and work were of equal importance. By the 1880s, BFS had begun to give the boys instruction in various trades in addition to agriculture. These trades included woodworking, printing, photography and blacksmithing. The school claimed to be the first in America to offer a printing program for its students. To reflect the changes in the educational mission of the institution, the school was renamed the Farm and Trades School (FTS) in 1907. "Boston Farm School." Thompson's Island Collection, 1814-1975. November 12, 2003.
2 John Brown (1800-59) American abolitionist, born in Torringtron, Connecticut, of Pilgrim descent. He was a successful tanner and land surveyor, shepherd and farmer, and, a strong abolitionist, wandered through the country on anti-slavery enterprises....Brown became a leader in the strife. In reprisal, he once ordered five pro-slavery men...to be shot....His next scheme was to establish a stronghold in the mountains of Virginia as a refuge for runaway slaves, and in 1859 he made a harebrained attack on the Federal arsenal at Harper's Ferry in Virginia. On the night of 16 October, with 18 men, he seized the armoury and took several citizens prisoner. On 18 October the arsenal was stormed by Colonel Robert E. Lee with a company of marines....two of Brown's sons were killed and he was severely wounded. Tried by a Virginia court for insurrection, treason, and murder, he was convicted and hanged at Charlestown, Virginia....The song "John Brown's body lies a-mouldering in the grave," commemorating the Harper's Ferry raid, was highly popular with the Republican soldiers as a marching song in the Civil War (CBD 213).
3 Alger, William Rounseville (1822-1905) attended Harvard Divinity School from 1844-1847. In 1848 he was ordained as a Unitarian minister in Roxbury, Massachusetts, where he served until 1855. He also served at the Bulfinch Street Church in Boston and, later at churches in New York, Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Louisiana, and Rhode Island. He was a member of the Free Masons and was an active abolitionist. He was a contributor to the publications Old and New and the Christian Examiner, the latter of which he co-edited during the 1860s. His major literary works included The Poetry of the East (1856) and the History of the Doctrine of a Future Life (1860). He was interested in eschatological themes and his work contributed to the growth of the nascent study of comparative theology. "Alger, William Rounseville." Andover-Harvard Theological Library, Harvard Divinity School, 2003. November 12, 2003.
4 Page, William (1811-85) Born in Albany, New York, William Page was called the "American Titian" because of his strong use of color and provacative qualities. Many thought of him as the heir to the style and subject matter of Washington Allston because of his painting of portraits and traditional classical subjects in academic style and use of luminous glazing techniques. . . . In 1827, he began study with Samuel Morse and at the National Academy of Design, receiving a silver medal. In Albany and Boston, he established himself as a portraitist, and then settled in Italy for eleven years. There he became friends with Robert and Elizabeth Browning and intellectually elite Americans. He also became involved with spiritualism and the Swedenborgian religion and briefly abandoned art to study for the ministry. In 1860, he returned to the U.S. From 1871 to 1873, he was President of the National Academy of Design, but was not popular with his peers because his work was regarded as idiosyncratic. His best-known painting is "Cupid and Psyche," completed in 1843 now in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum in New York. However, it was rejected by the Academy jury because of its overt eroticism. "Page, William." Dictionary of American Art. AskART.com. November 12, 2003.
5 Because the spelling of the name is unclear in the original we have been unable to locate any information about the artist or the sculpture.
6 Calvin received five letters from J.C. Learned to [Dr.] C.B. McQuesten. See also:
W-MCP5-6.337, W-MCP5-6.382, W-MCP3-6.55.