Charles Franklin Thwing.

Letters from a father to his daughter entering college online

. (page 1 of 2)
Online LibraryCharles Franklin ThwingLetters from a father to his daughter entering college → online text (page 1 of 2)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook




/ &&

<K fiL.




D.D., LLD.

President of the College for Women,
of Western Reserve University.

Jfant fork

Copyright, 1913, by


Parts of these letters, like parts of the
corresponding "Letters to a Son," were read
to my own college girls at the beginning of a
college year. In them I have tried to write
both as a parent and as a president. For
each relation is full of infinite meanings, and
each relation easily flows into the other. I
am glad, at the wish of the publisher, to give
these letters, paternal and academic, a wider
hearing than either the individual home or
college chapel can offer.

C. F. T.

College for Women,
Western Reserve University,
Cleveland, September, 1913.





I Choosing a College 9

II College Life: 14

What it is not;
What it is.

III The College and the Home 24

IV The Value of Health 31

V Democracy and Cultivation 37

VI The Best for Yourself 48

VII Teachers 51

VIII Books 54

IX Living your Life 57

X Friendships 60

XI Three Special Things: 68




XII The Elements of Religion 73


My dear Daughter:

THERE has never been any
question about your going to
college. Your mother's life at Vas-
sar had given her a special eagerness
to send her daughter to that or some
other good college. But now, that
the college is decided upon, I can
easily see that there were three,
among other reasons, which have
led us to make our choice.

One reason is that the college is
not too big. A very big college for
boys is bad, but a very big college


Letters from a Father to

for girls is worse. For do not girls
have peculiar need of individual
care? There should be, I believe,
specially careful oversight of each
and every one. When I think, too,
of how large a part of your life
and work will be individual, I am
the more eager that you in your edu-
cation should not be one of a mass.
A big college, of course, you may
say, should give as careful care to
the individual as the small. It
should: but it does not, and, cer-
tainly, it is more difficult, and these
difficulties the colleges do not seem
to have the machinery for overcom-
ing. So I am glad you are going to
a college big enough for you to find

His Daughter Entering College

a field of companionship, a variety
and richness of studies, and not so
big that you will be regarded by the
president as one among a thousand.
I am also glad we have decided to
send you to a college near a big city,
but not in it. A college for girls in
a big city does not give room for
play, in both the metaphorical and
literal sense, and girls must have a
chance to play, to be their free
selves ; but a college far away from
a big city always seems to me
to make the temptation pretty
strong to fall into habits of dress
and manner which the world does
not value highly. I want you to be
urbane, and urbane is only urban

Letters from a Father to

with the last vowel added. But I
also want you still to have room and
space and time for play.

But, there is a third reason, too,
for our choice. I have not wanted
to send you to a college where there
are boys. I wonder if I can tell you
just why. I think the reason is
something of this sort: College
life has many problems, and some
hard ones, for the girl. They are,
for some girls, so many and so
hard, that they are not able to see
through them or to think through
them, or even to feel their way
into or through them. I do not
want to add to your problems un-
necessarily. The presence of boys

His Daughter Entering College

is liable to make for some girls a
problem or a series of problems.
The problem which the boy repre-
sents should be deferred for most
girls till graduation, and it is also a
problem which the parent rather see
solved under his own eyes. While
I believe we ought to have co-edu-
cational colleges, and also, while I
believe that certain girls will find it
well to go to them, I am glad you are
going to a college where the boy-
problem, or the man-problem, will
not be presented every hour of ev-
ery day, and day by day of each of
your one hundred and forty-four

Letters from a Father to


But, now, having told you, as I
have not before, of some of the rea-
sons leading to our choice, what
shall I tell you of your college life?
Perhaps I should begin with saying
what it is not, or what it should
not be. Misinterpretations are too
common. One of these misinter-
pretations refers to the value of a
college education.

Some girls regard a college edu-
cation as of very great significance.
It is the all, the be-all, and the end-
all of life. To the college they
have looked forward with longing
and contentment. They have nei-


His Daughter Entering College

ther dared nor cared to look beyond
college years or college walls.
This condition was more com-
mon formerly than now. The di-
vision between the academic world
and the non-academic world was
more marked. To-day, the college
woman finds her way into every call-
ing where brain and character have
an opportunity, and what calling
is there where brain and character
lack an opportunity*? and the col-
lege student sees her sister alumnae
doing all the things that every one
does, and she therefore is not in-
clined to look upon the college ex-
perience as unique.
Some girls regard a college course


Letters from a Father to

as a matter of but slight conse-
quence. It is a mere incident or ac-
cident. Its four years are only five
per cent of one's four score years of
life. Its successes bear no relation
to life's success, or its failures to
life's failure. The student delights
to point out the women who have
not gone to college. Where and
how was "George Eliot" educated?
Wherein lies the truth? It is
safe to say that college is not the be-
all or the end-all. It is also safe to
say that college is not a mere in-
cident. The college is neither a
purpose, a final cause, nor a result;
the college is always a means, a
method, a force. Its power over

His Daughter Entering College

some women, be it confessed, is
slight. Some women leave the col-
lege the same women they came,
with slight exceptions. The power
over others, be it said, is hardly less
than tremendous. It has turned
the stream of their life's thought.
It has given them a vision of possi-
bility. It has inspired desires for
making real the content of this vi-
sion. It has opened the windows of
their souls and the air of human life
has swept in to make a sturdy and
fine character. It has brought them
to the world of good books and the
preciousness of good souls. It has
given them a sense of proportion
and an appreciation of values, a re-


Letters from a Father to

spect for the law that underlies all
laws. It has strengthened individu-
ality, it has lessened eccentricities.
It has deepened the sense of individ-
uality and it has also deepened the
sense of humanity. It has taken
away caddishness and callowness,
and made one a genuine good fel-
low. It has trained one to win tri-
umphs with humility and to bear
defeats with calmness. It has in-
creased respect for the decencies and
the sanctities of life. It has en-
larged the sense of humanity and
developed the sense of friendship.
It has, with all intellectual enrich-
ment, tried to add strength to the
strength of the will, and sensitive-

His Daughter Entering College

ness to the mainspring of con-
science. It has taken the daughter
from the family for a time, but it
has given an added respect for the
preciousness of the hearth-stone.
Without infringing upon the per-
sonal relations which one bears to
one's God, it has sought to make
that relation more vital, more rea-
sonable, more natural and more

A further misinterpretation, or
over-valuation, relates to moral and
intellectual values. College wom-
en are inclined to have an undue
appreciation of intellectual values
and an undue depreciation of eth-
ical values. Most come to college


Letters from a Father to

with the idea that the college is the
creator of intellectual power only.
I heard a most impressive speech
made at the last commencement in
favor of the proposition. The col-
lege is indeed to create intellect.
The text-book is the Genesis of our
intellectual Bible. The class-room
is the bare waste over which the in-
tellectual spirit is to brood and to
bring forth life. The teacher is, to
use the Socratic figure, to minister
to the intellectual new birth. If it
is not true, the college ought to burn
the library, blow up the laboratory,
and send the students home. But
we have learned that man is not in-
tellect only, and we have learned

His Daughter Entering College

that intellect does not work alone.
Man is a unit. One can not attain
intellectual results unless the feel-
ings are in a proper state and the
will fittingly directed. If the feel-
ings are riotous, the powers of reflec-
tion are disturbed. If the appetites
are not properly guarded, the power
of perception is lessened. Man is
one. His powers are to be kept
in equilibrium. Keep, create, in-
crease, all the intellectual powers.
But you should know that the eth-
ical forces are of great value. Of
course it is more important to be
strong than to be able to decline vir-
tus , to stand four-square to all the
heavens than to be able to prove

Letters from a Father to

the propositions about the parallel-
ogram, to have a pure heart than to
speak pure English. Of course it
is, and the most materialistic of all
college officers would say that it is,
true. This truth receives illustra-
tion in the fact that the intellectual
forces have had much less to do with
the progress of the world and of
mankind than is commonly be-

Another lack of proper estimation
is seen in the over-valuation of
knowledge and the under-valuation
of power. It is natural for a col-
lege woman to over-estimate the
value of knowledge. Has she not
been learning all these eight or

His Daughter Entering College

twelve years'? Has she not passed
examinations according as she knew,
and failed according as she did not
know*? If she knew, she has been
called bright, clever, brilliant, a
genius in the bud; if she did not
know, she has been called stupid,
and foolish. If she knew, her path-
way has been an easy and happy
one; if she did not know, her path-
way has been a hard and miserable
one. This will continue after col-
lege also. You will still find it con-
venient to know. But I would
have you believe that all knowl-
edge is of small worth for its own
sake. Knowledge is of chief worth
because it gives you material for


Letters from a Father to

thought, and the process of acquir-
ing knowledge is of chief value be-
cause it trains you in the methods of
thinking. Thought is of worth be-
cause it is the chief power among
men. The college, and the world,
can not have too many scholars.
There will be few, and only a few,
at the best. But the world needs
women who can think, and think
largely, broadly, justly, accurately
and comprehensively.


I perhaps ought to begin this
letter by saying that, while you are
in college, you must not forget your


His Daughter Entering College

The purpose of the home is the
purpose of the college. The parent
desires his daughter to become wise
and large-minded, great in heart,
strong in will, and appreciative of
all that is good and beautiful. The
teacher also seeks to secure wisdom
through learning and to cause wis-
dom to become a guide of the will
in its choices of right and of duty.
The son of Josiah Quincy, one of
the most useful presidents of Har-
vard College, says of his father:
"His heart's desire was to make
the College a nursery of high-
minded, high-principled, well-
taught, well-conducted, well-bred
gentlemen, fit to take their share,


Letters from a Father to

gracefully and honorably, in public
and private life." I am sure that
the desire of President Quincy for
his students was the same desire
which he as a parent had for his chil-

The identity of the aim of the
home and of the college is indeed
significant. For the idea is alto-
gether too strong and too commonly
held that the college is either remote
from or even antagonistic to the
home, that its ideals are not the
ideals of the home, nor its way of
securing these ideals the methods
which the home adopts. To be sure,
a superficial interpretation gives
ground for the judgment of such

His Daughter Entering College

alienation. For the sons and
daughters are away from home.
College life is at once monastic and
communal. Domestic life is not
monastic and in many respects
is not communal. College people
live in an atmosphere of freedom.
The domestic atmosphere is one of
dependence and supervision. But
after all the superficial and tempo-
rary differences, at bottom the col-
lege wants what the home wants;
the home wants what the college
wants, the finest type of the lady
and of the gentleman.

I also wish to say that the college
should have the attitude and mood
of the home in trusting the girl.

Letters from a Father to

The girl who comes to college mis-
trusted by her home, under the fear
that she will not prove worthy
either in intellect or character is
very prone to prove that she was
worthy of this lack of trust. The
girl who comes to college trusted is
inspired to prove herself worthy
of the trust. Nothing makes the
young or the old child so worthy of
being trusted as being trusted.
This was the method of Arnold of
Rugby. It was also the method of
President Quincy, from whom I
have already quoted. His son says
of him that in his intercourse with
the students "He always took it for
granted that they were gentlemen

His Daughter Entering College

and men of honor. He never
questioned the truth of any story
any of them told him, when in aca-
demic difficulties, however improb-
able it might be. That statement
was accepted as truth until it was
overthrown by implacable facts and
inexorable evidence. Then, be-
yond doubt, the unhappy youth was
made to know the value of a good
character by the inconvenience at-
tending the loss of it." One of the
most significant remarks ever made
about Arnold was that made by the
boys at Rugby, "We wouldn't lie
to Arnold; he'd believe us."

But the college has relations to
the home, as well as the home to the

Letters from a Father to

college. After three or four years
of sojourn the college turns the girl
back to the home. It may be at
once said that it is a little difficult
for her to resume these domestic re-
lations. If she has not lost touch
with the personalities of the home,
she has lost touch with its forms
and methods, standards and at-
mospheres. Herein lies an argu-
ment for the girl and the boy, too,
going to a college so near home that
these relations are not wholly or
largely severed. But she is to put
herself back into these relations.
She is to be an obedient daughter, a
helpful sister and a happiness-bear-
ing associate. She is to be remote

His Daughter Entering College

from all sophomoric remoteness and
from senior loftiness. She is to be-
come interested in all the interests
of the home. She is to bear into its
well-being a gentleness which is
sympathetic, a strength and an ap-
preciation which is loyal and rich
and fine. She is to assume respon-
sibilities. She is to be efficient
without officiousness.


And now, I want to tell some most
obvious truths, and to tell them, too,
in such a way, if possible, that they
may help you in college life, every

The college girl will find it diffi-


Letters from a Father to

cult to emphasize too strongly the
value of health. Whatever may be
the worth of general physical sound-
ness yet this soundness has at least
three special values.

First, it gives aid in holding and
getting sound views of life. Life
is a mirror. One smiles into it and
it smiles back. One scowls and it
scowls. If one is sick, all of life is
in peril of becoming sickly. Peo-
ple who have broken hips always
find that the chief injuries that men
suffer are broken hips. If one is
well, vigorous, sound, all life seems
well, vigorous, sound. Now, all
life is not well, vigorous and sound,
but if one is well, vigorous and

His Daughter Entering College

sound, one's own vigor helps to
transmute all life into vigor. It is
also advantageous to interpret life
in terms of its highest helpful-
ness. Its verb is to be conjugated
in the perfect, or pluperfect, tense
of action, of noblest attainment and
of highest condition.

Second, health has a value to oth-
ers quite as great as to oneself. It
is good to be able to give an impres-
sion of vigor. I know Carlyle says
of himself as a student at Edin-
burgh that these were the three most
miserable years of his life "a prey
to nameless struggles and miseries,
which have yet a kind of horror in
them to my thoughts, three weeks


Letters from a Father to

without any kind of sleep, from im-
possibility to be free from noise."
One also recalls the struggle with
ill health which the great Darwin
made. Frequently, again and again,
he writes in this mood : "I am quite
knocked up, and am going next
Monday to revive under water-
cure." "Before starting here (hy-
dropathic establishment) I was in
an awful state of stomach, strength,
temper and spirits." "I have not
had one whole day, or rather night,
without my stomach having been
greatly disordered during the last
three years, and most days great
prostration of strength."
Thomas Huxley also writes com-


His Daughter Entering College

plaining "of weariness and dead-
ness hanging over him, accompanied
by a curious nervous irritability."
At the age of thirty-two, Robert
Browning fell in love with Eliza-
beth Barrett. At the same period
his headaches began! Up to that
time he had been free from such
symptoms. The relation between
the heart and the head may be close !
For many years he writes of these
headaches. In 1846 he says: "I
am rather hazy in the head." He
also says : "For all the walking my
headaches." He adds too: "With
the deep joy in my heart below,
what does my head mean by its
perversity 4 ?"


Letters from a Father to

But the college girl should free
herself from such sufferings and in-
capacities. She is not to allow her-
self to be plagued by headaches or
heartaches, or indigestion or nerv-
ousness. She is to keep herself
well, both for the sake of good
health and for the sake also of giv-
ing the impression of being able to
do good work.

Third, health not only gives the
impression of being able to do
things, but health also gives the
power of doing things. Health is
good blood; good blood aids in vig-
orous thinking. Health is sound
muscle; sound muscle is executive
action. Health is calm nerves;


His Daughter Entering College

calm nerves promote sound judg-
ment. Woman's life is a round of
duties punctuated by crises. The
crises may be glorious or inglorious.
The way one follows this round
without permanent weariness, the
way one meets these crises, de-
pends largely upon physical sound-

In college, furthermore, you are
not to forget the large human rela-
tions. One is not to be "cribbed,
cabined or confined." One is to be
a unit. One is to place about one-
self other units. One may form
small unities, but one is not to keep


Letters from a Father to

oneself to small unities. The stu-
dent is to belong to her class; that
is good. She is to belong to her col-
lege; that is better. She is to be-
long and it is a far cry she is to
belong to humanity.

I sometimes think I could go into
a group of college girls and pick
out those who come from Vassar,
or from Smith, or from Wellesley.
Mannerisms in speech or dress or
certain interpretations of life would
reveal academic origins. I should
like for all college graduates to be
distinguished by the mere absence
of mannerisms, of characteristics
to have one manner, one character
the largest understanding, the deep-


His Daughter Entering College

est love for, the highest loyalty to,
all human interests.

Women are usually more seclu-
sive and exclusive than men. They
shut others out and themselves in
more. Commerce, industry, compel
men to be democrats. Trade has no
aristocracy. Because the college girl
lacks this aid, she should be the more
eager to make use of every oppor-
tunity to become one with all. One
is to be democratic. One is to make
use of every opportunity of democ-
racy. Snobbishness is bad in a man,
worse in a woman. One's relation
to all people is to be fundamental
and essential.

Another suggestion emerges. It


Letters from a Father to

relates to the education for powe?
and the education for cultivation.
There are books which may be called
books of power, and also there are
books, which may be called books of
cultivation. Mill's "Logic," Adam
Smith's "Wealth of Nations," be-
long to the first class. They are the
result of great intellectual force,
and they are creators also of intel-
lectual force. On the other hand,
poems are peculiarly books of culti-
vation. The same difference exists
in education. There is the educa-
tion which creates great thinking.
No one can read Mill's "Logic,"
without becoming stronger. But
there is an education of another sort


His Daughter Entering College

quite as important. It is the edu-
cation which cultivates.

Who is the cultivated person?
Some would say that the cultivated
person is the person of beautiful
manners, of acquaintance with the
noblest social customs, who is at
home in any society or association.
Such a definition is not to be
spurned. For is it not said, "Man-
ners make the man?" Manners
make the man! Do manners then
create the man? Do manners give
reputation to the man? Do man-
ners express the character of the
man? Which of the three interpre-
tations is sound? Or does each in-
terpretation intimate a side of the

4 1

Letters from a Father to

polygon? The way one accepts or
declines a note of invitation, the
way one uses her voice, the way one
enters or retires from a room may,
or may not, be little in itself, but
the simple act is evidence of condi-
tions. For is not manner the com-
parative of man? It is not the su-
perlative !

Others would affirm that the culti-
vated person is the person who ap-
preciates the best which life offers.
Appreciation is both intellectual,
emotional, volitional. It is discrim-
ination plus sympathy. It contains
a dash of admiration. It recognizes
and adopts the best in every achieve-
ment the arts, literature, poetry,

His Daughter Entering College

sculpture, painting, architecture.
The cultivated person seeks out the
least unworthy in the unworthy,
and the most worthy in that which
is at all worthy. The person of cul-
tivation knows, compares, relates,
judges. He has standards, and he
applies them to things, measures,
methods. His moral nature is fine,
as his intellectual is honest. He is
filled with reverence for truth, duty,
righteousness. He is humble, for
he knows how great is truth, how im-
perative duty. He is modest, for
he respects others. He is patient
with others and with himself, for he
knows how unattainable is the right.
He can be silent when in doubt.


Letters from a Father to

He can speak alone when truth is
unpopular. He is willing to lose
his voice in the "choir invisible."
He is a man of proportion, reality,
sincerity, honesty, justice, temper-
ance intellectual and ethical.

Such is a cultivation which be-
longs to all. But there is a special
cultivation, I think, which belongs
to woman. Of that unique charac-
ter and interpreter, Clarence King,
my old teacher and friend, Henry
Adams has said :

"At best, King had but a poor
opinion of intellect, chiefly because
he found it so defective an instru-
ment, but he admitted that it was
all the male had to live upon; while


His Daughter Entering College


Online LibraryCharles Franklin ThwingLetters from a father to his daughter entering college → online text (page 1 of 2)