1824: Caleb Clark to George Washington Nesmith

This letter was written by Caleb Clark (1801-1878), the son of Jonathan Clark (1761-1837) and Hannah Huckins (1772-1821).

George Washington Nesmith

Clark from the letter to his friend, George Washington Nesmith (1800-1890), the son of Jonathan Nesmith (1759-1845) and Eleanor Dickey (1761-1818). He graduated from Dartmouth College in 1820 and afterwards taught school at the Bradford Academy at Bradford, Vermont, where he became friends with Clark. Nesmith began the study of law with Parker Noyes in Salisbury, New Hampshire in August 1822, and was admitted to the bar in August 1825. He later became a judge and represented his district in the state legislature for many years. He was reportedly a close personal friend of Daniel Webster.

In the letter, Clark mentions an unexpected encounter with Mary Brooks. She is undoubtedly the same Mary M. Brooks (1799-1885), daughter of Samuel and Annie (Beidel) Brooks, who married George W. Nesmith in 1826.

Stampless Letter

Addressed to Mr. George W. Nesmith, Salisbury, New Hampshire

Landaff [Grafton County, New Hampshire]
April 7, 1824

Mau cher ami. Happy I was to receive un dauce lettre from one who I had reason to suspect had almost as quite forgotten that I had an existence in this lower world. I should, however, be the last to complain for I am as negligent as anoth other possibly can be with respect to my correspondence with old acquaintances and friends. To my shame & confusion of face, be it said I’d not written to Jenny, that best of souls, for more than sixteen months. And although there was an implied agreement between myself & one very nearly related to him, to exchange letters, I have never written a syllable to which is perhaps treating her quite as well as if I had.

Some of my old friends of the Bradford Debating Club, “I hae negleckit” entirely. Viz — Hurlbutt, who is in my opinion a cursed scoundrel. Hap. Wilson, who is as decent a fellow as his sentiments & prejudices & importance propre will permit anyone to be. Nevertheless, some connections and friendships I formed in Bradford, which I should not willingly abandon. It frequently happens that as we are passing from place to place in the world, the friendships we have formed are by degrees relinquished in order to give place for new ones. But here I stop.

That part of my life which is bounded within the narrow span of the last six months, I have spent in this my native town, after a distressing confinement of three months during which time I wrote you by my youngest brother who carried the letter to your old boarding house. I commenced a school in this vicinity and succeeded tolerably well, tho’ all were not satisfied and caused me some trouble. I was under necessity, in order to preserve proper subordination, of expelling two or three young devils who call themselves men.

Since I closed my school, I have been to Peacham, Danville, St. Johnsbury, Lyndon and on to Stanstead. S.C. [Southern Canada]. Was absent about a fortnight. Spent three or four days in Stanstead. I was acquainted with a few of the inhabitants on Stanstead Plains with whom I spent my time very agreeably. Stanstead is a very pleasant town. I arrived there Friday about noon and took my departure on Tuesday following. Attended meeting on Sunday [and] heard excellent preaching by a young man from England who are Methodists — very regular & orthodox. At noon I called at house which was near to warm, had just placed myself before the “fire fair blazing” when lo! in came who? Miss Mary Brooks. I very modestly approached her. She offered her hand —

“Twas a new feeling, something more
Than I had ever felt before.”

‘Twas not, however, a wicked feeling. It was the overflowing of a heart with joy at so suddenly & unexpectedly meeting one who I suppose is so dear to him I love best of all. On monday evening I called at Esq. B’s and spent a few hours very agreeably in conversation with Mary & Lucina, who they say is, after all, contracted to Lou. It is stated as an indubitable proof of the foregoing supposition that Lou, when at Boston, purchased a pair of shoes for her which would be considered a fair step towards matrimony.

I returned to Peacham and spent a few days and night, and came home without accident, save that my nag fell & threw me into the mud.

The gravestone of Caleb’s father, Jonathan Clark

I am at present paying some attention to the French Language. Expect to go to Danville in a few weeks in company with Mr. Moore of Peacham and attend to the pronunciation a short time. For my next step, I have almost come to the conclusion to enter an office & commence the study of law. Esq. [Ira] Goodall of Bath is very anxious to have me study with him. My father will board me, he says. This step I should not take if it were possible for me to get through College, but I am satisfied that my father will not assist me with much money. I can have the privilege of attending to Mathematicks and Philosophy in an office. And my knowledge of the Latin tongue, tho’ not very good, is nearly as perfect as it ever would be if I were to go to College, as I have read all the books which are read in Burlington except J____’s Greek will be of no use I think if I make the improvement of my time that will be in my power. Five years application to the study of law will be better than three & two in college studies. I intend to study Math & Philosophy as much as one year.

Saw Poor yesterday who is in good health & jolly as ever.

Write soon and oblige me with your sentiments respecting the step I am about to take. Yours affectionately, — C. Clark


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