Joseph Coolidge to Nicholas P. Trist
|dear N—||Saturday. [2 June 1827]|
I wrote you yesterday, and took occasion of a line on business, to Brockenbrough, to enclose yours mine, and spare you postage for a letter which, on other terms, I would not have sent: This morning brought me yours from Montpelier, and although I have complained of you of late, I nevertheless recd it very kindly, and acknowledge my obligations for it. In answer to the remarks of Leschot, I can only Say let time try the excellence of the clock—: when my friend [Bond?] returns from Phila. I shall read to him what is said about the suspension, encassement, &c, but believe that the metal of which it is made is hammered brass, not cut. one word more, old willard has made you pay more than he had a right to do; I never understood that there was to be an extra charge for the dial; he frequently told me how much it had cost him, but I considered that it was included in the $800!—when he returns I shall inquire into this!In relation to the prints, I am sorry, quite, that Long persists in retaining the print of Zenobia, and hope that your intention to purchase Humboldt may not be defeated: but be so kind as to copy from Long’s the name of the painter, the engraver, and the publisher, with the date, that I may send to England and obtain it there, if possible: be as minute and accurate as you can and send it to me as early as possible.! as for the Bonaparte I wish you to retain it; he had many [. . .] many [. . .]—mais—Grand Dieu, quelle téte! there are, already associations connected with it in your mind, and now perhaps there will be others which may add to its value; one of these days, too, you will have a house of your own, and till then it can decorate a room at mother’s with whom you will doubtless live, for the present until Virginia’s out; oblige me, then, by taking it and saying nothing more about it! You must have seen in the papers the two letters of Sparks, about the Washington manuscripts, these will shew you how well he deserves the confidence of his friends. I mean in so far as his judgment is concerned; he has also been employed by the government to examine and publish such parts of the correspondence of our commissioners who were abroad during the revolutionary war, as he sees fit;—his diligence, and discretion make him an admirable editor—tho. the many pursuits in which he is now engaged will seriously injure the north american! And now for Grund—when I first wrote to Brockenbrough every body was full of Grund’s merits as a mathematician—; his devotion to Science, which has been untiring; his indifference to other branches of learning; the success with [. . .] which he has taught &c; his manners which tho. wholly unformed by the rules of society, were said to be simple and interesting—; in short he was the universal theme; for some time, among our men of letters:—by degrees the novelty wore off; it was found that, though he had not been accustomed to move in the higher circles, that he was suspicious, & jealous—and constantly liable to take offence from an apprehension that he was not treated with as much deference & attention as others—: this cooled the zeal of his admirers, and though they all, now, speak of him as a good mathematician yet they think he would give trouble in any situation in wh. he might be placed,—that he would do for a school perhaps, but not for an university—: and this, probably, t is true: It was under the impressions which his first appearance created, and wh. I have just described, that I wrote—: a month or more passed, and letters of inquiry came from Mr Madison which led those to whom they were addressed to take some pains to ascertain the extent of his, Grund’s, acquirements, and how far the prejudices against him were founded in reason: the result has been as I named yesterday; they do not recommend him, but it should be remembered that a man’s attainments may be weighed by Dr Bowditch, and found wanting by in the scale of excellence which he has seen fit to establish, who yet may be possessed of much merit; so that, were there no other objection, his acquaintance with mathematics, even tho. limited when compared with that of one of the most profound and thoroughly-read men of the age, ought not to prevent the success of his application—; at tho. necessarily inferior to a few, he is indubitably, far beyond most of the Savans in our country:—but, as I have observed, his infirmities of temper; and a general unfitness, in all but Science, to the situation will likely probably prevent his being chosen Professor!—The letter which I wrote to Brogh was not meant to be communicated: I suppose that if Key left you, (why does he?) some one would be chosen in his place, and therefore mentioned this young man—who, in addition, professes to teach French & German—. I always knew that you would make inquiry before electing him, and felt no responsibility in mentioning his name—but, as I wrote yesterday, he was personally unknown to me;—he has since, however, procured an introduction, owing to a letter from Majr Dix, of New York, advising him to do so, with the object of soliciting a letter from me & Mr Madison: This I imprudently promised; but, before writing, felt bound to make inquiry, and thus learned, what I should not otherwise have known, that Mr M. had written to Dr Bowditch & Prof. Farrar on the subject. this correspondence has not been spoken of, it was in fact confidential; but, finding that the highest authority among us had been appealed to, I would have then have excused myself, but Grund, to whom I was not allowed to mention the circumstance, persisted in entreating me to write, brought me a copy of his introductory lecture, (wh., by the way, Mr Farrar advised me not to forward,) and his two prospectuses—, and I was compelled, in consequence of my hasty promise, to write such a letter as you may have seen at Mr Madison’s, and which, not knowing these circumstances (which I would thank you to explain) He must have thought very unaccountable. after the subject became a topic of conversation between Mr Farrar and myself, the name of Mr Walker was mentioned: I have heard so much in his praise that, though he is unknown to me, I wish very much that he should be chosen: he is young, and ardent, and possesses a finer mind, and one of more cultivation, than Grund; perhaps he is not, yet, his equal as a mathematician, tho. he soon will be, particularly if he devotes himself to it as, if Profr, he would do: he is acquainted with teaching, having for two years, I believe, been at Round Hill, at Northampton; add to this, he is gentlemanly in his address, and has all the moral qualities which are so essential among in the government of your young men. This character may be overdrawn, but the objections against men who are more known, such as Nulty, and Grund, on the score of the temper of the first, and the want of proper character in the second, are so great as will perhaps to induce the Visitors to write once more to Dr Bowditch, and Mr Farrar, and learn from them, directly, what they [. . .] of Walker; if you can, with propreity, advocate their doing so.—I mu[st do?] justice to Grund to add that he is not in the least mercenary—that $800 pr. annum would make him as desirous of the situation as $4000. he lacks only, as he says, a wider sphere then his present one, for the cultivation and diffusion of knowledge in his a favourite science, to which he has devoted his whole life, particularly the last ten years, tho. he cannot be older than 25 or 26—what a pity that he has not what is now more necessary than knowledge:
In relation to the gymnasium I will write in my next—I rejoice in the idea of seeing you here in the fall—Come if you can, in October, and remain some time with us—I will be your companion, & cicerone—:
We live at Cambridge in the house of Mr Farrar but direct to Boston, where I come every day.