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mountainous region densely wooded. To the north were sloping hillsides,
where were long rows of apple trees in picturesque stages of decay and death.
Broken down stone fences divided the land into fields where once the yellow
grain had fallen before the reaper's cradle, and the tall corn had waved its tas-
sels in the autumn sunlight. To the west lay open fields and pastures over-
grown with brush and brier. To the east were meadows, and beyond them
pasture lots. A good-sized brook flowed through the meadows, cool and
sparkling, singing in an undertone the songs it had learned of the rustling
leaves in the woodlands, where it had its birth, and where the song birds war-
bled over its cradle.

A path led across the meadow out into the wood-lot beyond, crossing the
brook over a bridge of rude construction. Just beyond the bridge was a cliff
of gray rock, towering a hundred feet into the air, its precipitous sides cov-
ered with stunted trees and laurels, while lichens and ferns clung to the rocks,
softening their hard surfaces with velvety greens and silvery grays.

Leaving her father sleeping peacefully on the grass, Nerva followed the
path till she came to the bridge. A trout shot like an arrow through the shal-
low water when her foot touched the planking. She paused a moment, listen-
ing to the music of the stream, and then passed on to the foot of the cliif.
Following a foot-path, she scrambled from rock to rock, clinging to the trunks
of trees, until she reached the summit, where a view of exquisite beauty re-
warded her for the effort.

The hills of Litchfield County appear much more enchanting to the
distant observer than they do to the weary traveler who descends one hill and
crosses a narrow valley, only to be compelled to climb another hill, and to
repeat the process for many a long mile. But viewed from a distance there is
a pastoral beauty in these long, sloping ridges, running north and south, un-
excelled by any landscape in the world. A superb view of these hills,
checkered by dividing fences, and dotted with white farm-houses, was spread
out before Nerva as she stood there.

After a long time she retraced her steps, and regaining the wood-path
soon came to the ruins of a mill-dam. The pond, which covered several acres,
was empty, but the old water-line could be seen upon the shores. In some
places the meadow sloped down to what had been the water's edge ; at other
places the shore was precipitous and rocky. Nerva saw that the dam could be
easily repaired, and instead of the repulsive marsh a lake of rare beauty could
be formed.

A few steps below the dam she found the rotting segments of an overshot
wheel. This suggested to her mind that the pond could not only be made or-
namental, but useful.

Returning to the farm-house by another route she rejoined her father,
and with him visited the orchard, the fields and the woodlands adjoining.
The father, somewhat aroused from his listlessness, took considerable interest
in his surroundings. Reared on a New England farm he instinctively knew


the adaptability of different soils to different crops. This evidence of return-
ing intelligence was very gratifying to Nerva, and confirmed her in the
opinion that with the quiet and change that this secluded spot would give, her
father might be greatly benefitted if not restored to his former self.

On the day following, in consideration of the payment of a few hundred
dollars, the old Weston farm that had lain idle for a quarter century, changed
owners, and Nerva found herself possessed of landed estate.

[To be Concluded.]



■'Look, then, into thy heart .ind write \"—Longfeltozu.

So many tuneful bards have sung
So many rhymes in every tongue,
Can any thoughts have gone astray
To charm the poet's soul to-day ?
Have all our loves and joys been told ?
Are all the rain-drops set in gold ?
The glamour of the woods doth thrill
Each quickened sense, delighted, still,
Eolian strains of wind-swept trees ;
The zephyrs' gentler harmonies,
A subtle rapture thus uplifts
The heart, in gratitude for gifts.
So we will sing as they have sung: —
For poesy is ever young ; —
The human soul's beatitudes.
And Nature's sympathetic moods.



There is a charm which ever hallows an old book — the charm of antiquity.
As we peruse the pages we are transported in thought from our present sur-
roundings to a contemplation of the customs and environments that be-
longed to its time. Something of the atmosphere that emanated from the
impulse and the action of the period of its making seems to be still lingering
about it. There is a particular interest which is attached to the methods of
instruction that bore a part in the education of our colonial ancestors; but a
more especial interest belongs to the early American text-books studied by
those who lived in the stirring times of our early independence. In consider-
ing these early text-books, we naturally think of what sort and manner of book
they were, when was the period of their greatest usefulness, and by whom,
and imder what circumstances they were compiled; and, in doing this, the
people of Connecticut are, haply, led to their own state. Before we begin to
examine these interesting books, it is perhaps best to survej' briefly the condi-
tion of the educational affairs as they were prior to the Revolutionary War
and to note how great was the lack of school-books in those days.

The colonist of Connecticut, who was imbued with the spirit which pre-
vailed in all New England (the keen desire for knowledge), felt the necessity
of providing, as quickly as might be, a means of educating the children of the
colony. For, upon the growing generation, the New Englander well knew
depended the continuance toward the success of the nation which he had
striven to found. Moreover, men realized that the one way to rise in the eyes
of their fellow-citizens lay along the path of education. So, in this way, came
about the importance of the school in New England.

In Connecticut, "as early as 1648 the assembly passed a law providing for





common education, every town containing fifty families was required to sus-
tain a good school, where reading and writing should be well taught." It is
not to be wondered at, that books at this time were a luxury, since so few of
them were in the colonies and when the financial
condition of affairs was such that the expense of
printing them could not be undertaken.

One of the present generation can hardly un-
derstand the feeling of the forefathers for a book
of learning, and the}'- guarded it with the care of
a treasure, that it might be handed down from the
oldest to the youngest in a family.

The New England Primer, which revealed so
strongly and clearly the character of the Puritans,
was called the little bible of New England, and it is
described as having stiff oak covers, unbeautiful
prose, rough and stern poetry and crude pictures.

Such was the book wherefrom many a child
studied lessons and doubtless knew by rote its oddly
religious and laughably instructive rhymes. It
must have been an uninteresting little book in its
day, but now it is interesting because of its quaint
character and puritanic primness.

Beside this little book the children had lessons
from the Bible and the Psalter, and these were about
the only books that were in use in those days of the colonies. The teaching
under this order of things, was compelled to be for the most part oral, and the
teacher often possessed only a manuscript copy of any subject he taught.

The advancement in such schools as this must have been slow and dif-
ficult. The youngest pupils were sometimes supplied with a very curious con-
trivance, which took the place of the regulation book and which was called by
the name of the " Horn Book." This was made of a thin board, with a handle,
and to this board was fastened a leaflet, upon which was inscribed the alphabet,
the Lord's Prayer, and some sentences. This remarkable and unique device
was oftentimes suspended from the girdle of the young pupil for convenience.
Over the leaflet, very frequently, was fastened a thin pane of horn, that the
page might be kept fair. This Horn Book had long been in use in old England,
and it antedated the art of printing. This device continued to be in use till
about the middle of the eighteenth century.

The poet Cowper describes the Horn Book in the following verse :

" Neatly secured from being soiled or torn,
Beneath a pane of thin transhicent horn,
A book (to please us at a tender age),
'Tis called a book, though but a single page.
Presents the prayer the Saviour deigned to teach,
Which children use, and parsons when they preach."

Later along in the schools, the three R's — reading, writing and arithmetic
— were required to be taught, and a pupil of average ability was supposed to
become proficient through the rule of three, as proportion was then called.
Rev. Heman Humphrey, D.D., president of Amherst College, wrote in a letter


to the Hon. Henry Barnard concerning schools between the years 1790 and
1800, and the books that were then studied: "Our school books were the
Bible, Webster's Spelling Book (third part mainly), one or two others were
found in some schools for the reading classes — grammar was hardly taught at
all in any of them, and that little was confined almost entirely to committing
and reciting the rules. Parsing was one of the occult sciences in my day ; we
had some few lessons in geography by questions and answers, but no maps, no
globes, and as for blackboards, such a thing was not thought of till long after.
Children's reading and picture-books we had none, the fables in Webster's
Spelling Book came nearest to it. Arithmetic was hardly taught at all in the
day schools; as a substitute, there were some evening schools in most of the dis-
tricts. Spelling was one of the daily exercises in all of the classes." This
testimony coincides with that of others who have written on the subject
concerning the instructional appliances of that period, and shows how poorly
equipped the schools were, and how limited the scope of an education to those
dependent on the common school.

But the mention of Webster's Spelling Book in this extract from President
Humphrey's letter reveals the first bright spot in the means of acquiring
instruction in those days, the glow of the dawn in the world of text-books.
Up to this time in the history of the educational affairs of our country, there
had been no idea of a text-book as a distinctive type of book, which was to be
rendered interesting as well as instructive,
and no allurements toward the path of
learning, evidently, were regarded as
needful. It was the general opinion
that people should be impelled personally
toward an education by the love of knowl-
edge and through a sense of duty which
ought to induce them to make the most
of their opportuaities and of themselves.
This is, ot course, the feeling which should
animate all people, the personal obliga-
tion to make the most of themselves,
though unfortunately it has never been
sufficient to lead the masses. But it was
natural that amid toil and great hardship,
little thought could be given to the mak-
ing of the ways of education pleasurable
either by books or otherwise. The child-
ren were sent to school to learn their les-
sons in the plain, hum-drum way provided
for them. Our feeling is somewhat curi-
ous and quizzical, yet withal reverent
when we examine a dingy, unpretentious
little volume printed in the year 1790 or iini ia.i m \vi:i;sri,R'-: i.r.^.mmatical
thereabout. " Books think for me," wrote institltk.

Charles Lamb from his world of them; but in this country, in its young days,
the small and scanty volumes filled but slightly the longings in the hungry
minds of our ancestors. If the subject of the text-book were to be treated in

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strict detail up to those in use by the present generation of pupils and the text-
books taken one by one through the series of ad^'ancements it would be al-
most inexhaustible.

S. G. Goodrich, better known perhaps as Peter Parley, who was a na-
tive of Ridgefield, Conn. , in describing a school of his town as it existed between
the years 1803 and 1806, gives the following list of books as those used there :
"The catechism, which was probably the New England Primer, and Webster's
Spelling Book, the Bible, and Daboll's Arithmetic (which held its place in the
schools for nearly thirty-five years), Webster's Grammar, which even the mas-
ter did not understand, and Dvvight's Geography, which had neither maps nor
illustrations, and was merely an expanded table of contents of Morse's Univer-
sal Geography."

Furthermore, William Woodbridge writes concerning another one of these
early schools: "As for geography, some few schools studied Morse's and a few
others used as a sort of reading book Nathaniel Dwight's System of Geogra-
phy;" and Mrs. Emma Willard wrote of a school which she attended when she
was a young girl, " Saturday morning I went and received my lesson in Web-
ster's Grammar and Morse's Geography."

In reading the names of the books mentioned in these extracts, we find
that they were all written by Connecticut men. And we draw the conclusion
from such references as to what extent the text-books of Connecticut men pre-
vailed in these early schools, and it is evident that they were the only ones of
American authorship then in the country. This was at the crucial and forma-
tive period of the nation when things were either to make or to mar its pros-
perity, and we learn from further study that among these books was one
which pre-eminently served as the base whence the character of the text-book
in general was builded. The witnessing of both history and biography goes
to show conclusively that to Connecticut belongs the honor of first instituting
the distinctive class-book. A noted Frenchman, who visited this country
about forty years ago, wrote of Connecticut that from its small area went forth
teachers, law-givers, and clock-makers; and, if we may so use the word, Coi-
necticut has been a creative state — a state whence impulses strong and power-
ful have gone forth toward the betterment of the country.

It is to this energy of its inhabitants that we can attribute its success in
educational affairs, and this honor of being the state that gave the first impetus
to the evolution of the text-book. As soon as circumstances so framed them-
selves in the course of the construction of this commonwealth and the finances
of the country were in a better condition, then the text-book began to be
thought pi. When the 'time is ripe, a thought that is running as a thread
through a period finds an exponent for its expression. When the right hour
came in the growth of our history then a new method and theory of teaching
were developed and given to the people. Since that time school books have
rapidly increased and advanced for all branches of stud}'. This period came
after the close of the Revolutionary War, for during that struggle, education and
schools suffered with and like everything else in the countrj-. When the war
was finished, in the calm that followed, men might turn their attention to those
advancements which would make toward the progress of the United States.

It was during this time that Noah Webster, who in the year 175S was born
in the town of West Hartford, Connecticut, had published in the year 1783 the


first part of his Grammatical Institute. This Grammatical Institute was com-
posed of a speller, a grammar and a reader; and in the two succeeding years
after the speller was pnblished, the grammar and reader appeared.

Previous to Webster's speller the Dilworth speller had been in use, and it
can be remembered even now by some of the oldest inhabitants of New Eng-
land. In a measure, the Dilworth book served as a model for Webster's spell-
er, although it differed materially, as Mr. Dilworth was an Englishman with
all the national prejudice of his nation at that time, and his book savored
altogether of English form and custom, for it contained long lists of the abre-
viations of honorary English titles, which although they might be needful in
England were hardly so necessary here; moreover, it dealt with words more
current in England than in America, for each country has its own preferences
and shades of meaning in its vernacular, and Mr. Dilworth omitted in his book
American linguistical additions.

Noah Webster wished to break away from all this, and to gain a new foot-
ing; he desired to lay aside this English spirit of ceremonial, the forms and
the very evident spirit of subserviency toward the aristocracy which seemed
to pervade the Dilworth speller, and, in short, in contradistinction to the Eng-
lish work, to establish in all American schools a pure national spelling-book.
So, although the Dilworth speller may have aided Webster in his ideas in re-
gard to forming a speller, yet between the two works lay the distance of the
ocean, for one had to do with England, the other with America. This is a
favorite remark of Webster's : "In the year 1782, while the American army
was lying on the banks of the Hudson, I kept a classical school in Goshen,
Orange county. State of New York. I there compiled two small elementary
books for teaching the English language. The country was impoverished, in-
tercourse with Great Britain was interrupted, school-books were scarce and
hardly obtainable, and there was no certain prospect of peace." This work,
which was undertaken b}' Webster at this time, was " The Grammatical Institute
of the English Language, comprising an easy and systematic method of educa-
tion, designed for the use of schools in America." This work had a large and
imposing title, but the famous speller part became best known as Webster's
spelling-book. Perhaps Webster builded even wiser than he knew when he
penned in the following paragraph the aims of his indefatigable labors : " I
spared no pains to make the orthography correspond to the analogies of our
language and the usages of the country, banishing the French spelling and
the harsh Indian pronunciation." And in very truth he performed well this task
which he set for himself. Webster other-where made this statement: "That
the spelling book did more for the language of a nation than any other book."
How far he realized the great truth that was in these words, we cannot now
know, but from our coigne of vantage (the lapse of time) we can look back-
ward, conscious of the changes that time with its fulfilling touch has
wrought, and of the great stride in the progress of affairs and of education, and
we can realize in its fullness Webster's statement. It has been cogently writ-
ten, — "Thepeasant of the Apennines drives his goats home at evening over hills
that look down on six provinces, none of whose dialects he can speak." What
a contrast this is to afi'airs in America, whose great area extends three thou-
sand miles, and where we speak a uniform language ! This gift of a uniform
speech we owe to Noah Webster, whose dictionary and spelling book were the



two great influences in keeping the language in this country pure. This spell-
ing book attained speedily to a marvelous success and widespread popularity,
and as it was used in all parts of the country, it exerted a far-reaching influ-
ence, and pi-obably a greater one than that of any other single book of study
ever published. Webster bestowed much attention in his speller upon orthog-
raphy and analogy, as he tells us, and the fables, which were one of the feat-
ures of the book, became household words wherever the speller went; and they
were beneficial in every way, beside interesting the child who read them, for they
taught morality, legality, and patriotism. To-day, all over the United States,
we are free from marked differences of pronunciation which result from dia-
lects, and we are exceptionally free from provincialisms. This happy state of
our speech we trace rightly to the harmony of spelling and pronunciation pro-
duced by the wide use of Webster's spelling book. The sales of this work
were enormous, and it passed through various editions and revisions. By the
year 1847 it had reached the .sale of no less than twenty-four million copies,
and by 1870 of over forty million. This book
has held its own nearly to the present time,
but it is now superseded by more modern and
improved methods.

Fortunately, the speller preceded the dic-
tionary, as by the ample proceeds which its sales
brought, Webster found the wherewithal to
allow him the leisure to mature the plan of his
dictionary. This speller was also the means of
a most important movement in the laws of the
country, as it gave the impulse to the earliest
action of the States and Congress in regard to
the laws of copyright. Before this work was
'-—'' published Webster took the manuscript and
rode on horseback to visit the influential men
of the different States, and showed to them his
•Tj^-:, projected work. In this way he succeeded in
i gaining their active co-operation in the matter
of the copyright law, for which Webster peti-
tioned the legislatures of the States, and saw
his efforts achieve success.

The reader which he compiled, although a
popular book, did not gain for itself such a popularity as the speller, which
could not be hoped for. It was composed of selections for reading taken from
the masters of English prose, and is interesting, although it has not been in
use in schools for some years.

The grammar division of the Institute was by far too radical in theory to
establish itself, but it was nevertheless a work of merit. Mr. Chauncey Good-
rich (who was the son-in-law of Noah Webster) says of this grammar: " It was
a highly original work, the result of many years of diligent investigation."
Webster disapproved earnestly of English grammar being conformed in its
plan to the grammars of the Latin and Greek languages in the nomenclature
and classification. However, it was impossible to carry out this plan, for there
existed in the minds of the people too great a prejudice against such an entire



Grimrmti'"*^ ^" ft i m re

By NO.Ml WI'.BSTER, Ju.l Esquir.



change in nomenclature, and this hindered the grammar securing wide
acknowledgement. In the year 1S07, Webster, who had profited by his former
experience and who saw wherein he had failed, issued a " Philosophical and
Practical Grammar of the English Language," and this work was more satis-
factory in its result.

Webster, in some ways, was a man of radical views, and even at the early
date in which he lived, favored the since much discussed phonetic spelling,
but he did not think that his time was ready to adopt it with success and
advantage. Few of our day think of the great debt to Noah Webster which is
owing him from all of his countrymen, or realize how potent was his work and
his life in this nation.

Contemporaneous with Webster, Caleb Bingham lived, acquiring celebrity
as a teacher in Boston, whom I briefly shall mention, as he was originally from

Ni A n r, :. •


Connecticut, although he is closely allied to the educational history of

Caleb Bingham wrote school books, some of them dealing with the same
subjects as those which employed Webster's attention, and some of Mr. Bing-
ham's admirers have claimed a somewhat rival fame for his books with the books
of Webster. This claim cannot be sustained. In the case of the readers there
may have been justice in it; but as for spellers, Bingham's was completely lost
sight of in the fame of the Webster Spelling Book. There was no question of

Online LibraryWilliam Columbus FerrilThe Connecticut quarterly (Volume 2) → online text (page 6 of 46)