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Treatise on the Greek Pronunciation, and Mr. Moore's

To Professor Stuart, of the Theological Institution,
Andover, my father writes : —

October 30, 1819.
I have been wishing for an opportunity to see you upon a
subject of great interest to oiir country ; that is, the procuring
of a native Arabic instructor, by means of the missionaries
who are now about sailing for the Levant. I dare say your
ardor in the cause of solid learning has already anticipated me,
and lias suggested some plan of effecting so desirable an object ;
but I could not rest easy without knowing whether you had
attempted anything, and what success you would probably
have. The teacher you would obtain would not probably be
a man of much learning, and of course must be considered as
a mere assistant, or what they call in the French colleges a
7naUre d'etudc, under the professor of the institution; and I
have thought that if there should not be employment enough



for him all the year at Andover, he might occupy himself the
remainder of it at Cambridge, New Haven, and Hanover, by au
arrangement with those colleges. Excuse my solicitude, and
believe me, with much respect,

J. P.

Professor Stuart replied : —

November 25, 1819.
It affords me the highest pleasure to see you take so deep an
interest in the subject of Oriental philology, more especially so
as very few in our country do take such an interest. I can see
a thousand reasons why your suggestion should be approved,
and the plan carried into execution. To no one could it be
more gratifying than to myself. But unhappily for my pur-
suits, those who have the means — that is, wealth — cannot be
made to view the su,bject as you and I do. " Who needs to
speak Arabic here ? " is a simple, intelligible argument, which
every man who loves his money can understand ; while all the
philological array of arguments is destitute of force. How
should Dives look at the future harvest to spring from Arabic
roots, so crooked, so entangled, and so deep-concealed from in-
spection ? After all, in a good cause my motto is, " Nil desper-
andum." I do hope in God that the treasures of the East are
yet to be displayed here by some of her sons, and that future
communications with our missionaries and future arrangements
may accomplish the desired object. Nothing shall be wanting
on my part. Do you promote the same, and my hopes will be
much brighter still. In great haste, with much respect and
affection, truly yours,

Moses Stuart.

The then recent discoveries made by the excavations
at Herculaneum and Pompeii had awakened in my father
an enthusiastic interest in connection with his love of
the classics and ancient history ; and he commissioned
Dr. Usher Parsons, when on a voyage as surgeon in the
United States Navy, to obtain books, engravings, or
coins, etc., illustrating these subjects. A long letter

1819, 1820.] LIFE OF JOHN PICKERING. 285

from Dr. Parsons at Naples in the summer of 1819
gives a detailed and minute account of tlie excavations
at Pompeii, and of the progress made since his previous
visit in 1816. A list of the papyri, more than forty
in number, which had been recovered by the excavations
at Herculaneum and enrolled, up to the present time,
was sent by Dr. Parsons with his letter.

In the winter of 1819-1820 the quiet family circle re-
ceived the addition of a Harvard student as a member
of the household. The youngest son of Mr. Rufus King
was at this time at college in Cambridge ; and his father,
being absent from New York as a member of Congress,
wrote to my father, asking the favor of him to receive
Frederick into his family, to pass the winter vacation
under his eye and instruction, and to treat him as he
would a son of his own.

In a letter to Mr. Du Ponceau, Jan. 15, 1820, my
father says : —

"I have lately borrowed of a gentleman who has been in
Lima a Spanish grammar of one of the Indian languages ; and I
have thought it my duty to you, as our field-marshal in these
operations, to mention it and to give you the title of the work,
though I run the risk of telling you nothing new. On the sub-
ject of the Greek pronunciation you will not be displeased to
hear that I have conversed with Mr. Everett, our professor,
whose opinion on the general merits of the question is with me,
and I have understood that he intends to review the subject in
the 'North American.' I feel strongly persuaded that we have
yet a good deal to learn of the delicacies of the ancient Greek
language from the natives of the country."

In the summer of this year Colonel Pickering made
a journey to Baltimore for the purpose of bringing to
the North the child of his daughter, Mrs. Dorsey, — a



little girl now nearly two years old, who was less tlian
a year old at the time she lost her mother, and who
was to be brought up with her relatives in Massachu-
setts. My father embraced this opportunity of com-
municating with Mr. Du Ponceau and of submitting
to him a manuscript copy of his Paper recently read
before the American Academy, accompanied by the
following letter : —

June 30, 1820.
I take an opportunity of sending to you by my father a copy
of my Paper on the Orthography of the Indian Languages. It
is, as you know, only an application of the general principles
of your excellent Essay on English Phonology, and will stand in
need of much indulgence on your part. I submit it, however,
without fear to one of your learning and candor, and beg you to
be assured that nothing will confer a greater obligation upon
me than your remarks upon it.

To this Mr. Du Ponceau replied from Philadelphia,
July 7 : —

" I received about an hour ago your favor of the 30th ultimo,
with the excellent communication that it contains. I have
given it a cursory perusal, and am upon the whole exceedingly
pleased with it, and honored as well as flattered by your sub-
mitting it to my weak judgment previous to publication. I
shall be as free with my observations as you may wish ; and
I have this idea of the superiority of your mind that you would
receive criticism, even from a child. I regret only that I shall
have so little room to exercise my criticising powers (if any I
have), for the work is well thought and well executed. But to
begin at once my critic's office : I have to request that you will
soften what your warm friendship induced you to say of your
humble servant and follower. There is one word in particular, in
a marginal note or reference, which (excuse the freedom I take)
I never can submit to ; it makes me blush from ear to ear from
a deep-felt sense of my utter un worthiness to have such a word,



such an epithet, applied to any of my poor productions.^ I there-
fore most earnestly entreat that you will strike out that unlucky
word, which you have found in your heart when you should
have consulted only your head. Your excellent father writes
to me this day from the steamboat, on his way to Baltimore, that
he will call on me on his return in about a week, to take what
I may have to send to you. By him I shall send back your
manuscript, and also Volney's late work on the same subject,
which Sir William Jones has so ably treated, — the manner of
writing the Oriental languages with Eoman characters. I mean
to propose to you by and by to have your Alphabet, with few
explanations, printed singly, and distributed among missionary
societies, etc. This will be the way to make it useful and bring
it into practice. I wish I had you here for an hour only ; armed
with my books, I would throw volumes at your head, and we
would swim together in a sea of philology. I hope that pleas-
ure is yet to come ; but I must not waste my paper in expressing

In reply to Mr. Du Ponceau my father writes : —

July 13, 1820.
I anxiously wait the arrival of your packet of remarks on the
several parts of my paper in their order. I am glad to find that
it meets with your approbation in the main, and I shall now feel
the less diffidence in submitting it to the scholars of our own
and any other country to which the weightier matter of the
Academy's volume shall carry it.^ I have only to regret that
you had not written upon the subject ; but I shall let the public
have the benefit of your observations as far as you will permit.

J. P.

On the 17th of July Mr. Du Ponceau writes : —

■' I this moment received your favor of the 13th. I hope before
this comes to hand you will have received my heavy budget by

^ " My learned friend Mr. Du Ponceau."

^ Memoir on a Uniform Orthography for the Indian Languages of North


your mucli venerated father, whom I had the honor of seeing on
Saturday last, — and we talked much of you, as you may suppose.
I regret much that he did not make a longer stay. I feel much
flattered by your approbation of the hints I have taken the
liberty to give to you. I do not regret not having written upon
the subject, as I find you are so fully adequate to it. You say
the public will have the benefit of my observations as far as I
will permit. They are intended for any use that you may think
proper ; those that are correct are merely those that would have
occurred to you on further reflection, and therefore I claim no
merit to myself from them. I have kept no copy of my letters,
and remember very little of what I wrote. You must take and
use my letters and notes as you would a conversation between
you and me, in which ideas are mixed, and truth comes out from
the recollections awakened on both sides, — indeed, it would be
very difficult in most c^ses to separate my ideas from your own.
I always laugh at those who are afraid of communicating their
thoughts to others, lest they should make use of them ; besides
that it evinces a great deal of vanity, it shows a very scanty
stock in the minds of those who are so afraid, — and avarice
in such cases is generally connected with poverty. I am poor
indeed in this respect ; but literary avarice never was, and never
will be, my passion."

A newspaper article for the ^' Salem Gazette," headed
*' British Reviews," was written by my father and
published in the " Salem Gazette " of July 14. It
was called forth by an article, signed " B.," in the
"New York American," written in reply to criticisms
in the "Edinburgh" and "Quarterly" Reviews upon
American literature.

In one of Mr. Du Ponceau's letters to my father he
says : — '■

" From what you say of my philological essays, I should think
you understand German. I shall be happy to congratulate you
upon it, for it is a noble language and a well of science."


To this my father replies : —

" As to German, I am going to read two or three times a week
with a teacher in this town, for the sake of compelUng myself to
devote a regular portion of time to it."

On the subject of Greek pronunciation, my father
addressed letters to Professors Vater, of Germany, Reu-
vens and Van Lennep, of Holland, and Richard Payne
Knight, of London.

In August of this year Henry Little, son of the late
Dr. Moses Little (whose wife was Elizabeth (Williams)
Little, a cousin of my father) came into our family.
Having lost both his parents in childhood, his near-
est relatives were anxious to place him under the guid-
ance of my father, whose attachment to Dr. Little and
his wife secured his warm interest in their son. He
remained in our family for more than a year.

My mother's mother, Mrs. Payson, died September
7 of this year, after a short illness.

On the 21st of October Mr. Du Ponceau writes to
my father, saying : —

" I have the pleasure to inform you that at a very numerous
meeting of the American Philosophical Society you were last
night unanimously elected a member of that Society. I under-
stand that the Eev. Samuel F. Jarvis, late of New York, has
been called to Boston, where he now resides. As I do not
know his direction, you will oblige me, if you are acquainted
with him, by informing him that he also has been elected a
member of the American Philosophical Society."

To this my father replied : —

Salem, Oct. 26, 1820.
I received your friendly letter yesterday, announcing my
election into your Philosophical Society, the circumstances at-
tending which are highly flattering, and cannot but be gratifying



to a person who has any ambition of being laudatus a laudatis
viris. I am not personally acquainted with Dr. Jarvis, but I
shall be in Boston to-morrow, and will communicate it to him
through one of his friends, at whose request {cntrc nous) I wrote
the short review of his Discourse in the North American.^

In writing to Mr. Du Ponceau, December 12, my
father says : —

" I envy you the rich donations of foreign books you are ex-
pecting from Mr. Adelung and from Sweden. But I console
myself with the reflection that they will be more useful to the
country with you than with us ; and that is the first object. We
think here, by the way, that the Government (that is, the coun-
try) would be great gainers if they would permit us to import
books written in foreign languages free of duty ; and with that
view a number of gentlemen in this town made application to
Congress last winter to exempt books of that kind and scientific
books (such as never can be reprinted here, and of which we
always choose to have originals mstead of copies) from the
usual duties. But this winter we find Congress, with parlia-
mentary politeness, gives us leave to withdraw our petition. I
wish you could co-operate with us, and make one more appeal
to the liberality of the Government on this subject, from your
part of the country. Our own booksellers ought not to com-
plain, because they reprint none of the books we want, and
they would certainly gain more by their commissions, etc., on
the increased importations. Mr. Isaac Davis informs me that
you were almost persuaded to engage to make us a visit next
year ; I hope you will be able to do it. In case you do, you
must give me as much of your visit as possible."

In the course of his correspondence in the year 1820
my father received letters from the learned Coray at
Paris, and from Dr. Stephen Oeconomos at Smyrna,
both written in Greek, their native language ; as well
as from another Greek gentleman at Samos, Mr.

1 Review of Dr. Jarvis's Discourse on the Keligion, etc., of the Indian
Tribes of North America.



Darbar, whose correspondence on the subject of Greek
pronunciation had been obtained by the kind offices of
Mr. Issaverdens, on a visit to his native country.

It was in the year 1810 that my father's attention
seems to have been first attracted to the aboriginal
languages of North America, by meeting with a chief
of the Oneida tribe who visited Salem in the autumn of
that year. From him my father obtained the alphabet
of the Oneida language and a list of a few common
words, — now preserved among his literary papers. In
the year 1819, when the Rev. Hiram Bingham was
about setting off as the first missionary sent to the
Sandwich Islands by the American Board of Commis-
sioners for Foreign Missions, he came to consult my
father as to the mode of writing the unwritten dialects
of those islands, and he brought with him a Hawaiian
(Owhyheean) youth, Thomas Hopoo, educated at the
Foreign Missionary School at Cornwall, Conn., with
whom my father had some interviews, and from whom
an idea of the sounds of his native language could be
obtained. By Mr. Bingham's earnest and anxious de-
sire, my father gave him his views advocating the
adoption of the foreign sounds of the vowels, after-
wards forming the basis of his Essay on the Uniform
Orthography of Indian Languages, which was pub-
lished in the Memoirs of the American Academy. In
his communication to Mr. Bingham, embraced in a let-
ter of seven pages, Oct. 19, 1819, my father says : —

"As various nations of Europe are engaged in the work of
foreign missions, and have already written and will continue to
write and publish books, both for the instruction of the heathen
and for the information of the learned, it is desirable that some

292 LIFE OF JOHN PICKERING. [1820, 1821.

common orthography should be adopted for the unwritten lan-
guages. This will enable them to read our Indian books with
ease, and will make theirs also easy of access to us. For this
reason I have long thought it would be best to adopt as the
basis of the orthography what we call the foreign sounds of all
the vowels ; this should in my judgment be the basis of the pro-
posed orthography. But whatever orthography you do finally
adopt, I think you ought not to print any of your books with-
out a key or table of the sounds of the letters, so that the
learned of Europe may be able to get some idea of the language,
and be able to co-operate with the greater effect. I hope your
duties will permit you occasionally to compare the language of
your islanders with those of the others in the South Sea, and
also with those of the Asiatic and American coasts, — an in-
quiry which may ultimately be of great utility."

In the year 1820 the Rev. Joseph Pickering of Eng-
land died in London. In 1796 he had begun a corre-
spondence with Colonel Pickering, which was followed
by my father's acquaintance with him at his home in
England. He was then living at Wickham, near Fare-
ham, in Hampshire ; but his talents and worth obtained
his promotion soon afterwards to a parish in London,
where he died.

From John Quincy Adams the following letter was
received by^my father : —

Washington, Feb. 5, 1821.
Sir, — I have to acknowledge and to thank you for the favor
of your letter of the 21st of December last, with four copies of
your Essay on a Uniform Orthography for the Indian Languages
of North America, the disposal of which shall be made con-
formably to your desire. The course of my occupations has not
permitted me heretofore to follow the train of inquiry into the
nature and character of the Indian languages even sufficiently
to appreciate, with a due knowledge of the subject, the details
of your work ; but the principle of its foundation is obviously


important, and its accomplishment, by facilitating the acqui-
sition of those languages, would at once multiply the sources of
our information concerning those by whom they are spoken,
and enlarge the general stock of philological knowledge. With
my best wishes for your success in the pursuit of both these ob-
jects, I remain with great respect, sir, your very humble and
obedient servant,

John Quincy Adams.

To Mr. Dn Ponceau my father writes from Salem,
March 3 : —

"Your letter of the 26th ultimo, which arrived to-day, re-
minded me of my being in debt to you for one of an older date,
which I received at the beginning of our late term of Court.
The Court adjourned a day or two ago, and I have now a little •
respite ; having had, in addition to my common civil business,
the labor of a capital trial, in which the Court assigned me as
one of the counsel for the prisoner. I sent you the other day a
copy of the trial as printed. The arguments, as I need not in-
form you, are mere outlines, with the exception of that of my
colleague, who had had time enough to digest and prepare an
opening in a more elaborate and fini.shed form than was practi-
cable for me upon so short notice as I had of the duty assigned
to me ; and after the excitement of the occasion is over, I cannot
sit down to recompose an argument and attempt to give it the
original coloring. But I need not make any further comments
for you. I have lately received some little articles from Greece,
by the intervention of our friend Mr. Issaverdens and Mr.
Fisk, one of the American missionaries to the Levant. The
latter has procured me a present of two works (on Rhetoric and
Ethics) published by Mr. Bambas, who is the head of the Col-
lege of Scio, and who has sent them to me in his own name,
which he has inscribed in the books. Thus by degrees I hope
we shall form a more intimate acquaintance with that quarter
of the world."

The capital trial mentioned by my father in the fore-
going letter, and in which lie was most unexpectedly


engaged, was a memorable one, from the circumstances
attending the commission of the crime, the youth of
the culprit, the excitement and deep feeling in the
community, and its permanent results. It was the
trial of Stephen Merrill Clarke, of Newburyport, for
arson. He was a son of respectable parents, but a
wild, reckless youth, only sixteen years old. On the
trial it appeared that without any malice on his part
against the injured parties, but incited and urged by
a profligate female older than himself, with whom he
associated, he had set fire to a stable in Newburyport,
in the vicinity of a dwelling-house, which also took fire,
and was eventually consumed. Suspicion was soon
directed towards him, and sufficient evidence came out,
from his unguarded admissions and communications to
his vicious female associates, to warrant his arrest and
his imprisonment, first in Newburyport, and afterwards
in a jail at Salem, awaiting his trial. Leverett Salton-
stall and John Glen King, Esquires, were appointed his
counsel ; but extreme and fatal illness in the family of
Mr. Saltonstall caused the Court to assign his portion
of the duty to my father afterwards. The town of
Newburyport had su:ffered much from conflagrations,
and there was a natural and great excitement there
from this cause. On the other hand, the youth of the
culprit elicited peculiar sympathy, and the trial, with
the death-penalty impending on the issue, made the case
one of extreme interest to all, and of painful anxiety to
my father. The prisoner's cause was a desperate one, as
it proved, in the light of the law ; and although every
effort in his behalf was made by his counsel, a verdict
of guilty was announced in a few hours after the case


was given to the jury. A petition from many of the
most respectable inhabitants of the county, begging
for a commutation of the sentence of death, was pre-
sented to the Executive. I remember that the poor
distressed father came to our house in behalf of his son,
and that Mr. Saltonstall and my father had a special
interview with Governor Brooks ; but the sentence of
the law was carried into execution, and young Clarke
was hanged in public in Salem before he had attained
the age of seventeen years ! This execution for the
crime of arson was the final one in this State, the law
authorizing the death-penalty having since been ex-
punged from the statute-book. I think it was the only
capital trial in which my father was ever engaged.
Mr. Du Ponceau, in writing March 8, says : —

" I have received your report of the arson case, which I have
read with great interest. You made the best of the cause you
had to defend ; and it was a bad cause if there ever was one."

Writing to Mr. Du Ponceau, April 16, my father
says : —

" In consequence of our State Convention our regular terms
of Court have been broken in upon, and everything so much
deranged that I have not been able to make any calculation
upon leisure hours these three months. To-morrow I go again
to attend our Supreme Court for about ten days ; but after that
I hope to be at leisure during a good part of the summer. I
have, however, during this interval of disorder sometimes
given a momentary thought to Eliot's Grammar, and have
lately received a letter from the Eev. Mr. Daggett (the super-
intendent of the Missionary School at Cornwall, Conn.) in
answer to some inquiries I made of him. I expect to be em-
ployed incessantly for the summer in carrying through the
press the Greek and English Lexicon. It is only a school-book,


but I hope better than Schrevelius in its present state, and will,
I hope, invite our countrymen to the study of that wonderfully
rich and flexible language."

To this Mr. Du Ponceau replied, April 20 : —

"I have not forgotten Eliot's Grammar. As soon as my
Historical Address is finished and delivered, it will be my next
object ; and we will then go up to our elbows in Indian ety-
mologies, roots, verbs, etc. I shall begin when the roses come,
for it is a rosy subject to me."

In the spring of this year my father was elected an

Online LibraryMary Orne PickeringLife of John Pickering → online text (page 24 of 43)