W-MCP5-6.315 TO ESTIMATE RUTH ESTHER BALDWIN [MCQUESTEN] from her brother-in-law D. [David] Flanders
Mar 8 1841
To: Estimate Ruth Esther Baldwin, Northampton, Massachusetts, [U.S.A.]
From: Londonderry, New Hampshire, [U.S.A.]
We received your of the 21st inst. on Saturday last and now hasten to give an answer. We reviewed your letter to Miss Parkinson in due season and I immediately re-mailed and sent it to Mrs. Jane received news "Brother Jonathan" very thankfully [sic]. We are all in good health. Mother, Lucy, and Jane, send much love to all.
With regard to your future plans for the ensuing year, I do not think myself capable of giving counsel; but nevertheless "I will show you my opinion." I really do believe that much of the time spent by our young men, in the study of the languages which are spoken by no nation on earth, is entirely misapplied and thrown away! What possible advantage let me ask, can arise from a mere knowledge of words without ideas. The obvious effect in too many instances, as daily experiences teach us, is to render such, tenacious of their opinions, arrogant, overbearing, and pedantic in the preserve of all such as may happen to be so unfortunate as to have never heard of Hir Hai Ha [?] [ink blot]. What I have to say with regard to the time spent by young men in the study of the dead languages will apply with more force to the female part of the community--Perhaps Brother Cyrus will think me very visionary in my thoughts as it regards this subject, or he may dispose that my opposition to this class of studies may arise from a consciousness of my own deformity in knowledge; but it is not so.
As an example I profess to share knowledge of Navigation sufficient to teach it to others and have done so in many instances; yet I would not advise you to mark out a journal of a voyage from Boston to Liverpool because it could not be of any practical advantage to you what ever. I think that the same may be said of Latin and Greek, more especially with respect to females--It may be said that females might make it profitable to themselves by teaching it to others; but that presupposes that young ladies ought to be taught these languages, to which I refer, and that is what I deny.
You may say that the study of Latin and Greek enables us to read the ancient history of the Mediterranean in their own language, and that thus greater beauties will be discovered than can be possibly found in a translation (admitted) and then one must study Gallic or (Highblown Scotch) or Spanish in order to read the poems of Ossian, or the admirable history of Don Quixote in the original! If the knowledge of ancient history is necessary in order to know how ferocious mankind were in those days; we have abundant translations which will show enough; or if that should fail, modern history will tell us what they are now; and if we wish to know what they should be, the New Testament explains the [? ink blot].
I do certainly think that many of the Latin and Greek writings (If I may judge of them by the translations) are totally unfit to be placed before a female! The whole system of Heathen Mythology is most disgusting, obscene and indecent--The amount of intrigues and quarrels of the Gods and Goddesses of the ancients are such as cannot be described in decent language.
Some will say that one must learn these languages because our English tongue is derived in some measure from them--But why not in that case acquaint yourself with the ancient Saxon, Danish, Dutch, &c., from which more of our words were derived than from both of the dead languages.
P.M. If you ask what shall we learn I answer, "Endeavour to obtain a knowledge of such branches of Science as will make us useful to others and agreeable to truth, a knowledge of words sufficient to communicate the same to others in a known tongue! The French, Spanish and Italian as being living languages would be much preferred to any of those which have ceased to be spoken.
The sciences were at a very low ebb at the time of Homer, and even down to the time of the Augustan Age; so we can get nothing in that way. Even the same may be said of the arts (with the exception perhaps of Architecture), and every thing useful to mankind with regard to the higher branches of Mathematics.["]
I would say that, although the study of the same does undoubtedly give strength and tone and vigor to the intellect, yet it lies under the same objection as the others, viz. it is of no practical utility whatever to females--Of what a [ink blot ?man-] can we imagine it to be for us to spend years in accumulating words with the certainty that in a few years we shall forget nearly all of them. Would it not be better to collect and arrange such Ideas as would last through life!
With affectionate esteem,
D. [David] Flanders.