Joseph Coolidge to Nicholas P. Trist

dear N.

My anxiety about the choice of a mathematical professor has led me to ask many questions, of late, of Mr Farrar, and from him I learn that Mr Munroe has written to President Kirkland, desiring him to name any individual whom he thinks peculiarly qualified for the situation: he (Mr Farrar,) also tells me that Mr Madison has written to himself, again, to say that Mr Walker has been named to the Visitors as a suitable person to succeed Mr Key, and to inquire how far he merits the character he has recdMr F. assured me that Mr Walker will be recommended both by Dr Kirkland, and himself, in preference to any other person: but, I ought to apprise you that Dr K. is proverbially the most indolent man in the community; and, moreover, at this time in bad health; so that, notwithstanding all my efforts to the contrary, he will probably not answer Mr Munroe in time to have his letter laid before the board: Mr Farrar, however, writes to Mr Madison, to-day; and his letter will contain, I believe, unqualified testimony of to the high moral and intellectual qualities of Mr Walker: to you I may be more minute than he, perhaps, will be: and tho. I have not seen the individual referred to, describe him according to report: he is said to be tall and well-looking, & gentlemanly in his manners, [. . .] as well as a man of good temper, and remarkable for the influence wh. he has ever been able to exert over those he instructs, so that at Northampton his simple recommendation frequently effected more with the students than the express injunctions of another could have done.In this way he led his classes on from book to book without trouble or delay: and although his branch, (mathematics) is not a favorite one; and a teacher in it who does his duty is; generally, an object of dislike, he succeeded in securing the attachment of all under him: this I have from them who were his pupils!—I mentioned in a former letter how diligent are his habits of study—; that he maintained the first rank in his class, and yet found time to make himself master of German, French & Italian, and translate from the French, for the press, 1000 pages, of mathematics during the last year of his College life—: and so at Northampton, finding that he had time to spare he had determined to commence a course of lectures upon Natural philosophy; & is now making preparations to send to Europe for apparatus:—he is not aware, I fancy, that his friends have named him to the Board of Visitors as a candidate for the Professorship, (for his residence is 100 miles, or more, from Cambridge,) Dr Kirkland, however, is proposing a journey to Northampton for his health, & his intention was to have conversed with Mr Walker on the subject, but he, now, had he there is not time to do so! there is no doubt, I presume, however, that he would accept if chosen.In addition to the fact of his being a general favourite, I may mention—for I suppose it was not told me, confidentially—that he will be appointed Tutor in mathematics, at Cambridge, if in a few months, if he does not go to Charlottesville! this, I had from Mr Farrar! all persons here speak well of Walker: every one who knows him estimates him properly—, one only individual excepted; who, tho. an excellent fellow, has his defects—: I mean Ticknor. he insinuated to me that there was a limit to Walker’s mind—; I do not mean that I even he believed that W. was to be a man of circumscribed or ordinary capacity—no! he meant rather to convey that he was not of the highest class of intelligences—: and how many, pray, are of this class—? does america, or the world, furnish them in such numbers as to make it disreputable to a man not to be accounted one of them? for my own part I think it well may be doubted if such are the men you want for teachers—; nay more, I doubt if any institution committed to the management of such men, exclusively, would not soon go into ruin.—that Walker possesses talents of a high order, no one can question; that he has character, as distinguished from talent, his whole life shews—; that he is a successful and popular instructer his is clear from his reputation at Northampton —; & where the school is, in fact, larger than the Va University—having 13 professors, most of them foreigners, and 140 students—; and where they are able and willing to give a man a thorough education, at least equal to that to be acquired in any institution in the country.—as you do not want a mere mathematician, (such as Grund,) but a man of temper and discretion, who has dignity of character, and enlargement of mind, of pleasing manners, able to encounter and overcome difficulties—too young to be wedded to ancient systems, yet of yr sufficient to decide what is best, where any thing is doubtful, and familiar with the most approved methods of instruction both in this country and in Europe,—I recommend to you Walker—, repeating that my anxiety in the case arises solely from interest in the university, and is not quickened even by the sentiment of a common friendship!—I proposed that Dr Kirkland should address his letter for Mr Munroe to you, as Secretary to the Board—, but if sent to London it should be detained until the return of Mr M. who, I presume, would have left before it could arrive.—

In your last you say I had better write to Mr Madison, upon this subject; but I have not felt at liberty so to do, having neither been desired by the one nor the other gentleman Mr. M. or Walker to interest myself in the case.—Old Willard is returned, delighted with the conduct of all at Charlottesville;—and full of praise of their liberality: occasionally, let me hear if the Clock wears well!—In a letter recd yesterday there was the memorandom about the Zenobia. I fear it will be difficult to obtain an impression, even in London; remember me if Humboldt is sold; and recommend Key to come as far as Boston, before he returns to England:—as for the Lebranches I will write about them in my next; but, at present, I am so distressed for breath that I can hardly sit at my desk.—remember me to Dunglison and his family—and to any friend.—

a word about the Central:why did you refuse? you might have given it in relation to the [. . .] a liberal tone wh., without you, it will want: and I should have had pleasure in furnishing you papers, and news—political and literary and commercial and manufacturing—! you might have had made it, an excellent paper—but remember to put my name down as a subscriber when the new series commences, and let me know the amo.—as for a Review, it does not seem to me likely to succeed. a Review should be in a large city, or near one, where discussions of every topic are frequent, where communications are easy with other places and other countries—, where books abound, and where the variety of subjects and opinions is greater far than it can be in a village—; and the editor, and the writers should be men whose prejudices have been corrected by their own proper experience, and who have to a certain degree become by frequent change of place, citizens of the world without ceasing to be peculiarly so than of their own country.

Vale et me ama,
J. C jr

all well at home: remembrance to all.

Has Dunglison ever said any thing more about my forwarding his [. . .] new books, &c from Hilliard?

I wish you would contrive to let Bonycastle know that Sparks wishes to get a review of “the Cambridge course of Mathematics,” and Farrars Natural Philosophy—” for the October number of the N. A. Review.

at Key’s sale watch for the Humboldt: and persuade him to come north, before going home to England.

tell me if you ever Spoke about the Indian Sword to Jeff.—

Is it determined that you come on in October, or Novr?

RC (DLC: NPT); partially dated below signature; addressed: “To Nicholas P. Trist—Charlottesville, albemarle County; Virginia”; stamped; postmarked Boston, 28 June; endorsed by Trist: “Coolidge (Joseph.) recd July 4th 1827.”