W1100 ESSAY BY MARGARETTE BARKER LERNED [MCQUESTEN]
Sep 1 1824 [undated, date estimated]
From: [Adams Female Academy, 1 Londonderry, New Hampshire]
A CLOUDY FLIGHT OF THE IMAGINATION
It was a delightful day in summer. The sun was fast sinking below the western horizon, when after a somewhat toilsome ascent, I found myself on the pinnacle of Mt. Washington. While I sat transported by the surpafsing1 beauty of the scenery on the one hand and awed into emotions of sublimity on the other, my attention was suddenly directed to a white fleecy cloud that floated beneath me. It continued slowly to approach, until, instead of being as I had anticipated immersed in the chilling vapor, I was gently borne from earth on the surface of the downy car, into the regions of etherial [sic] space.
The surprise occasioned by the sudden transportation above the highest summit of my morning aspirations, was soon forgotten, in the emotions of wonder and adoration, which were excited as on I soared, gazing at the thousand glittering orbs by which I was surrounded, while the puny sphere which was my former habitation, appeared more and more insignificant, until it was lost in the distance or obscured by the splendor of the more glorious worlds which were continually multiplying to my view.
I was particularly struck with the appearance of one of them which seemed sensibly to increase in size and brilliancy, and I soon ascertained, though not without fearful misgivings as to what would be the destiny of my flying vehicle& that I was rapidly approaching it. At this time my consciousnefs [sic] deserted me, and when experiencing various painful and indescribable sensations, I was aroused from this state of insensibility, & found myself deposited on one of the lunar mountains, well known by the name of "the old man of the moon."
I had often when on earth felt the strongest curiosity to know some thing of the history of its majestic Satellite and now that an opportunity presented, I was disposed to make the most of my adventure. I accordingly descended the mountain in search of the beings who might inhabit this new world. The attempt to convey through the medium of words any idea of the scenery would be utterly fruitless. It resembled more the description of fairy lands than anything.
I rambled about for some time without discovering the object of my search, until at length I was approached by a multitude of the most fantastical and singular images that imagination can conceive, and I almost fancied the sun shone through their unearthly forms, as they flitted around me in noiseless movements of inimitable grace.
I was preparing myself in the best manner I was able to communicate the thousand questions which my curiosity prompted when suddenly all save one of these etherial [sic] beings vanished, and to my surprise I was accosted by that one by these words:
Presuming mortals think not to aspire
To knowledge that's above thy feeble power
Seek first the knowledge of they self no higher
Till in eternity thy wisdom equals ours
Return and be more wise.
As she ended, the sound of the unwelcome school bell dispersed my visions and recalled me to a world of realities.
1 "The Adams Female Academy, opened its doors in April of 1824, after a bequest of 4,000 dollars from Jacob Adams in 1823. Located in Derry, New Hampshire, this was one of the first academies in New England devoted solely to the education of girls. Zilpah P. Grant Banister was the first principal, and Mary Lyon was her assistant. The school had an excellent reputation, enrollment was over 100, and students came from all over New England. In 1886, the Academy merged with other town schools and became co-educational. The Adams Female Academy Records Lodged at Mount Holyoke College, include catalogues of students and teachers 1824, 1826, 1827, 1830, minutes from a trustee meeting 1824, compositions from students 1824, photographs, and general information. The compositions were written by 36 students of Mary Lyon." We are grateful to the Mount Holyoke Archives and Special Collections for sending us an essay by Margarette: "Wherein Lies Happiness," January, 2004. (See W1100a).
"Adams Female Academy." December 11, 2003. Mount Holyoke College Archives. http://www.mtholyoke.edu/lits/library/arch/col/msrg/mancol/ms0503r.htm.
2 We have dated this essay as 1824 since many of Margarette's essays are dated 1824 to 1827 (W1100 to W1165). Margarette Barker Lerned numbered this essay as No. 1, so it has been listed as the first of her school works in the Whitehern Calendar. Margarette Barker Lerned (1809-41) lived in Hopkinton, N.H., and attended Adams Female Academy in 1824 and 1825. In 1824 she was fifteen years of age. When she graduated (1825) she become a Primary School teacher until she married Dr. Calvin McQuesten at the age of twenty-two, in 1831. She died in 1841, at thirty-two years of age, just three days after the birth of her third child, who died six days later. One of her children survived to maturity, Calvin Brooks McQuesten (1837-1912).
3 Margarette is using the now archaic "fs" for the "ss" sound. However, Dr. Calvin McQuesten's school essays also show frequent use of the "fs" construction, see W0363, W0365 & footnote at W0368.