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Edward Huntington to Elizabeth Huntington, Nov 5, 1839

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Edward Huntington to Elizabeth Huntington, Nov 5, 1839


Edward Huntington wrote this cramped letter to his mother in the midst of his studies
away at college. It opens affectionately, but Edward quickly moves into a discussion of his
friends and his philosophy of life. though much of the letter is indecipherable, due to Edward’s
scrawling script, what is evident is his use of Christ and the bible as an inspiration not only in
how to live life, but how to think about life. The letter is highly philosophical, and includes a
reference to Stocism and to Virgil’s Aeneid. He spends most of the letter reflecting on the nature of friendship in relation to living a good, moral life. He also reflects on the death of his sister Mary a loss that occurred less than a month before the date of this letter.
As the letter goes on, Edward’s handwriting, already difficult to read, becomes impossible to decipher, as he saves space by compressing his writing. The last paragraph is essentially unreadable. However, in the second to last paragraph, some clues point to Edward’s awareness of the outside world; he references New York state (abbreviated NY), and mentions Judge Lyman, a Northampton native. While Edward’s account is fragmented and obviously incomplete, it speaks to the various ways in which he was connected to a wider social, philosophical, and theological world.


Edward Huntington


Porter-Phelps-Huntington Family Papers (Box 19, Folder 15)
Amherst College Archives and Special Collections


Nov 5, 1839


Public Domain



Cabotville, Nov. 5. 1839

My dear Mother, I have sometimes endeavored to reason with myself on the topic of intercourse with our friends and to convict. Feeling of the folly of promoting it by [engaging?] the transient nature of the pleasures derived from it, its inadequacy to substantial utility in consequence of the desultory manner in which it is frequently carried on; the endless excitements, disputes, discords, jealousies + feuds engendered by it, the bitter self reproach it brings on the [imitable?], the fickle minded, the hasty + the indiscrete. In carrying on this argument I have insisted too that loquacity is prone to expend itself in words and that those who are gifted with language want energy in action.
But, alas; how poor safeguards are reason and augment when set to control undisciplined desires; much more so when brought to contend with innocent, nay {next page} wholesome delight. To maintain silence without first having experienced indifference and to practice a resolve amidst those in whom I love to confide is beyond the stoicism of my philosophy. Like the [unintelligible] of sense the appetency for refined social intersoucre is heightened by indulgence; but here the likeness vanishes for indulgence may gratify but does not produce satiety. And I am seldom presented with the opportunity to converse with my friends when I do not search in vain for any substantial evidence or argument -for social abstinence. These thoughts ever suggest in parting with you last when I left you as Dido parted with Aeneas. I must refer you to William for the original but I fancy a fine translation would
render it “weeping and wishing to say many things”. “Iron sharpens iron; so does a man the countenance of his friend” [1].
Thought I am in part deprived of that luxury of grief which those of you have whenever in the midst of the scenes which call her to your memory I have frequent sensations of {next page} a deep + [impassable] loss in the departure of our dear Mary. In looking into different parts of the Bible what a luster seems to gather around those passages which give promise of union + Immortality! a familiarity only with the [unintelligible] we hope for like those on [unintelligible] with the [unintelligible] of an [unintelligible] friend of which we have [unintelligible] church [unintelligible] is. “Blessed be the God father of our Lord Jesus Christ who through his [unintelligible] may [unintelligible] to a [unintelligible] hope” + C. if am [unintelligible] happy [unintelligible] heavens a [unintelligible] happy immortal is [unintelligible] too suffice to [unintelligible]. The [unintelligible] of the [unintelligible] and on
loving a my [unintelligible] “Than a day [unintelligible] life. heaven an angel more”
I intend to have had [unintelligible] the [unintelligible]? As [unintelligible] from the words “She is not [unintelligible] but [unintelligible]” or to have borrowed it of him. I [unintelligible] I shall [unintelligible] is on [unintelligible] in [unintelligible].
You were [unintelligible] when the [unintelligible] with [unintelligible]. How could you attribute it
[unintelligible] when it is so much more [unintelligible] that [unintelligible] from Mrs. Judge Lyman, the [unintelligible], or [unintelligible].
In [unintelligible] N. Y. [unintelligible] of which before last I [unintelligible], this was a [unintelligible] for a [unintelligible] wife for a [unintelligible] for a [unintelligible] I think the [unintelligible]. Can’t this [unintelligible] in [unintelligible] when have love [unintelligible] care of [unintelligible] of [unintelligible]. I love you with all [unintelligible], [unintelligible], Edward

[1] The two quotations come from Virgil’s Aeneid and from Proverbs 27:17. William was clearly considered the better Latin scholar of the two brothers.