W0061 TO [DR.] CALVIN MCQUESTEN from friend P. T. Moulton
Aug 9 1828
To: [Dr.] Calvin McQuesten, Washington, New Hampshire
From: Bowdoin College1
After looking a long time for the three or four weeks in which you were to write me, to pass away, I received your letter in due season from the time it was written. I am thus hasty in returning the answer, because I intend to go home next week, not to return again till the first of October. You will probably open this with disgust that such an abominable man of nonsense as it may contain should be intruded upon your "visual perception," and may throw it aside with the declaration that you will not read what must be the overflowing of a diseased imagination. If you have any such ideas, I warn you to forbear and to consider how you should like to have your epistles treated with contempt. Besides instead of filling it up with nonsense. I may make some very erudite remarks on various subjects; perhaps on the girls, courting and matrimony; though I think of nothing to say on those subjects at present and you heard I am but little acquainted with them and take no interest in the pair.
I will now go on to tell you the remarkable incidents which have occurred since you left us. The most prominent is the celebration of the anniversary of our national independence. We listened to a very eloquent administration oration pronounced by Larabee. After having spoken to considerable length on the general advantages of our country, he turned to her present policy. He explained what should be her policy with regard to the individuals selected for office, and then showed that it is not what it should be, but that it consists in "manufacturing a president out of tariffs, retrenchments, six militia-men and broken noses." Here followed a chap from all the Jacobinites that made the old meeting-house swing again. He closed his performance with an eloquent eulogy on De Witt Clinton. The poem by James Bowdoin Cleaveland was, I presume, exceedingly fine; though I had not sufficient penetration to follow the thread, nor taste to discern the merits of it. It was either too deep for my shallow facilities to fathom, or too lofty for their low stature to reach, or too mighty for their narrowness to comprehend, I will not attempt to determine which. But, be it as it may, do not understand me to mean, that his performance was not of the very highest character, but that my powers of mind and intellectual attainments were too small to estimate its value.
In the evening, the fronts and ends of the large college buildings were fully illuminated. Their appearance was truly splendid and grand, and attracted the attention of numerous spectators. About one half of Larabee's oration was printed in the newspaper established since you were here (entitled the "Audoscoggin Free Press") and reads very finely.
The seniors have been examined and have cleared out for home to get their new clothes for commencement. The remaining classes will be examined on Tuesday and Wednesday the next. On Tuesday evening there will be an exhibition of the power oratory in my class, for the prize. Government appointed nine in which honourable number I am enrolled. Be assured it will be powerful!
I will now go back to the time of your departure hence and proceed in something like regular order to record some of the most important events, which have transpired in the space intervening between that and the present time. To begin. All the medical students who offered themselves; passed a satisfactory examination and obtained their degrees--I went home at the close of our term and spent three weeks pleasantly--no small portion of it being thrown away in the society of females; of whom we have in Bucksport, a considerable number of the first order; One of my good deeds in vacation was, to break up a bargain between my sister and a young man in Bangor, whose attention was very disagreeable to my parents. But it is contrary to their principles absolutely to forbid their children to form connections with persons of their own selection, and their advice was insufficient in the present instance. I was to state some facts, which operated powerfully upon her mind.
Before I returned to this place, I rode to Old-Town to visit the Indian settlement. They are a most filthy set, and are extremely loose in their morals. I understood that any one could gratify his taste for carnal pleasures for a mere trifle, say a half-dollar; but I made no personal experiment. I resumed my incarceration here, about the middle of June and have dragged out 8 weeks in the loathsome business of college life; but intend to return home next week in consequence of some unpleasant intelligence I have received. My brother, of whom you have heard me speak, has recently become deranged, and my assistance is needed to take care of him; as the family are very much worn down by the affliction and trouble.
We have made some additions to our gymnasium since you were here, and have formed ourselves into classes to perform regular exercises. John Neale (Editor of the "Yankee" in Portland) came on and gave us a few lessons in gymnastics; and we now attract much notice from such as delights to witness feats of agility. Its utility is evinced by the almost unprecedented prevalence of health (that scourge to you quacks).--Our temperate society flourishes finely and is gaining ground.
Friend, as you and I have talked over the thing I will tell you what was the conclusion in reference to discontinuing that correspondence. I told such stories, made such dismal fore-bodings and pleaded so hard and affectionately that I completely disarmed the beauty of all her objections, so that she gave up to my guidance in that point. Is that not good?
So you don't like the girls where you reside--Don't think them good enough for you. How fastidious you are growing in your old age, Chum! Mercy on me! What is this world coming to! Do you think that you should find any one more after you heart in S. Reading? Had you not better remove to that place to pursue your studies? I fear you would never obtain a medical degree if you should. Such palpitation such burping--such anxiety--such late evenings and sleepy days--as would necessarily ensue, would give a death-blow to all literary or scientific improvement.
I have written as much as I have received from you. Besides I have promised an opportunity to Friend Bailey to write on this sheet.
From your old Friend, schoolmate, Chum, &c., &c. Write as often as you can.
1 Bowdoin College is in Brunswick, Maine. Calvin enrolled in 1827 and received his "Doctor of Medicine" in September 1830 (Minnes 1).
The college was established by the Massachusetts Governor Samuel Adams in 1794. In 1825 Nathaniel Hawthorne graduated from Bowdoin and wrote the biography of Franklin Pierce; he was from the Bowdoin class of 1824 and 14th President of the U.S;
John Brown Russwurm, was Bowdoin's first black graduate, 1826, the third black to graduate from an American college; he went on to become the co-founder and co-editor of the country's first black newspaper, Freedom's Journal, March 16, 1827 inaugural issue.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was a member of the class of 1825, and he taught modern languages there from 1829-35. His poem, "Morituri Salutamus,"celebrates the College and the fiftieth reunion of his famous class of 1825. He was arguably the most popular literary figure in nineteenth century America.
In 1852, Harriet Beecher Stowe's husband, Calvin, (who was from the class of 1824), was a professor at Bowdoin, and she wrote much of her book Uncle Tom's Cabin in his study in Appleton Hall.
2 This letter enclosed with W0063.