« AnteriorContinuar »
HAZARD TO BELKNAP.
Philadelphia, April 19, 1779.
Reverend And Dear Sir, — Since my arrival in this city, I have received your favour of 2d ult., for which I am much obliged to you.
I am sorry I misunderstood you respecting the papers, because it may have the appearance of design. However, I assure you that was not the case, and have no doubt your candour will give due credit to the assertion. Perhaps I may have committed a similar mistake respecting the Indian Treaties, stitched up with Giles's Narrative. If so, please to let me know, for it is not too late to return them, notwithstanding I have wrote my name in them.
All the papers of which you mention the titles properly come within the limits of my plan; but it is not even my wish to give you the trouble of copying them. Only be kind enough to recollect what books they are in, and where those books are lodged; and, upon my receiving the necessary information from you when I have the pleasure of seeing you again, I will transcribe them myself.
The Address to the Quakers is certainly well calculated, and, could it be managed in the way you mention, I think would have a good effect; but a little attention to circumstances will convince you that this is impracticable. I should have been happy in paying you another visit, but the nature of my business .was such as necessarily prevented it. Should our lives be spared, it is not improbable that I may have the pleasure of seeing you at Dover, either this summer or fall. I am at present engaged in a little post-office business, and transcribing the " Records of the United Colonies of New England." As soon as these are finished, I intend travelling eastward again. I am charmed with your proposal of an American Biographical Dictionary, and will cheerfully contribute towards it any aid in my power; but, upon considering, according to Horace's advice, " Quid valeant humeri ferre, quid ferre recusent," I dare not undertake it. When you attend to the magnitude of my present design, and recollect that, at the same time, I am forming an American Geography, you will see the propriety of my declining it. As you have begun, I wish you would go on with it. It is unjust, and would argue base ingratitude, that the characters of worthy men should be buried with their dust. We have no news here. Please to remember me to Mrs. Belknap, and believe me to be, reverend and dear sir,
Your friend and very humble servant,
BELKNAP TO HAZARD.
Dover, May 123 1779.
Sir, — I am much pleased that my proposal of an American Biographical Dictionary meets with your approbation. The promise of your assistance in carrying it on is a great inducement to proceed, but I had much rather you would take the work into your own hands. "The magnitude of your present design" need be no impediment to it, as the materials lie all in your way, and you will only have to keep by you an alphabetical index of names, with references to the books or papers where the characters or actions of the persons are registered, which may be digested and transcribed at some future period, when your other plans are completed. This is chiefly the method which I have pursued; only where I meet with hints scattered in books or papers which may not easily be collected again, I have copied or abridged them in my memorandum. But I have done, and can do, but little toward it.
"Confined," as Pope says, "to lead the life of a cabbage/' — unable to stir from the spot where I am planted; burdened with the care of an increasing family, and obliged to pursue the proper business of my station, — I have neither time nor advantages to make any improvements in science. If I can furnish hints to those who have leisure and capacity to pursue them, it is as much as I can pretend to.
If upon further consideration you should think more favourably of being the principal instrument of perfecting this design, I will endeavour to forward it as much as lies in my power; but, if not, I beg you would not only assist in it yourself, but engage a number of gentlemen in different parts of the Continent to make collections for it (which may be done even by gleanings of the every-day reading of curious and inquisitive persons), and let some one whose situation is more central than mine be appointed to receive them. By this means,- perhaps, in a series of time the thing may be done; but if it must lie solely or chiefly upon me, and I am to continue in my present embarrassed and heterogeneous situation, 1 am afraid it will come to nothing. I shall expect to see you again before winter, and will keep the papers whose titles I mentioned till you come, unless they be sooner called for. They will find you employment for a few days, which* I shall be happy if you will spend at my house. Please to return Gyles's Memoirs, with the Indian Treaties. You need give yourself no concern about misunderstanding my meaning. "I myself also am a slave," and wish to have as candid a disposition in my friends toward me as I am willing to exercise toward them.
If it be not too much trouble, be so kind as to bring me a copy of Lord Chesterfield's "Principles of Politeness," reprinted at Philadelphia, which I will pay you for.
Mrs. Belknap desires her compliments.
I am, sir, with much respect, your obedient, obliged friend and servant, Jeremy Belknap.
P. S. I should be heartily ashamed of this paper, in any other circumstances. But it is an exact picture of the times; for even this rascally sheet is three dollars per quire.
To Ebenezer Hazard, Esq.
HAZARD TO BELKNAP.
Jamaica Plain (near Boston), Aug. 4, 1779.
Reverend And Dear Sir, — I believe I am a letter in your debt, for I think I deferred an answer to your favour of the 12th May, because I was near beginning my journey to this part of the world. The Biographical Dictionary shall have every assistance in my power, but I must still declare against being the prirnam mobile. You can have but a very imperfect idea of the "magnitude of my present design," without seeing that amazing collection from whence my materials are to be extracted, and being fully acquainted with the variety of objects my design includes. Even my own idea of it is imperfect; but it is so complete that, had I known at first what I was undertaking, I would not have enrolled my name in the list of American Antiquarians. But, as I think it disreputable to begin a work and not to finish it, I am determined to proceed; and, being blessed with a tolerable share of patience and perseverance, I hope to prove, in the course of five or six years, the truth of Horace's assertion that " Nil tarn difficile est, quod non solertia vincat." I am now engaged with the Records of this State; and, among the rest, have the Records of the United Colonies in hand, which alone contain upwards of five hundred pages in folio. I have mentioned the Dictionary to a number of gentlemen. They are pleased with the design, have promised their assistance, and, I suppose, will forget it. I judge from past experience, but shall be glad to be mistaken. To shew you that I don't intend to do so, I send you a sketch of the Life of the Reverend Dr. Finley, I drew up some years ago. You will see it is a rough draft, and needs the polish of your finer pen. The presidents of Princeton College (who were all men of eminence) were Dickinson, Burr, Edwards, Davies, Finley, and Witherspoon. The Lives of Messrs. Edwards and Davies have been published: that of the former will need pruning; uncouth excrescences abound in "it. It is of no importance to the world to know that his grandmother's great-grandmother helped to make a ruff for Queen Elizabeth. I cannot fix the time for my intended visit to you, but I shall not forget my promise of calling to see you.
Gyles shall be returned.
An odd affair has happened lately, which I must tell you of, though I am in a hurry. Somebody wrote an account of a Cock and a Hen, and a strange kind of an Egg which was laid, or to be laid, at Pennycook; and imprudently added, as a postscript, that "the ingenious Mr. Hazard would probably be glad to have the Egg." Some of Mr. H.'s friends, by a concatenation of ideas which was not unnatural, were led to think he was intended by the Cock; that he had either led the Hen astray, or been led astray by her; and there was danger of introducing a spurious breed among the poultry. Mr. H., being accused of worse than "filthy handling," and in a newspaper too, was forced to take measures for the vindication of his moral character. He called upon the printer, and got, as he thought, the name of the author, and sat down and wrote him such a letter as the feelings of an innocent man, thus injured, dictated. An Sclaircissement took place, the genuine writer's name was given, the transaction alluded to