The Letters of William Cullen Bryant - Vol. 1

By William Cullen Bryant II; Thomas G. Voss et al. | Go to book overview
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indeed; and I have just put your letter among the few things to which I recur when I wish to refresh my self-complacency. For the guidance in my botanical studies to which you allude, I have ever held myself your debtor; and that you may long live to diffuse a taste for the sciences you pursue with so much ardour and success is the prayer of

Your Sincere friend,

MANUSCRIPT: Unrecovered TEXT: W. M. Smallwood, "Amos Eaton, Naturalist," New York History, 18 ( April 1937), 187-188.

Amos Eaton ( 1776-1842, Williams 1799), an early popularizer of the natural sciences through his lectures in western Massachusetts and eastern New York from 1817 to 1824 and his Manual of Botany for the Northern States ( 1817), became the first professor of natural history at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1824. A friend of Dr. Peter Bryant's, whom he called the "most dexterous operator that he had seen handle the surgeon's knife," he later taught Cyrus and John Bryant at Troy, and renewed his acquaintance with Cullen at Great Barrington in 1820. On June 21, 1833, Eaton wrote him, "I read your poems from candle-lighting 'till this time [12:30 A.M.], to my wife, wife's sister, daughter Sarah, and two nieces. My 13 year old William (of whose presence I boast so much) heard me also. Tears fell like showers at some poems, glee [glozed?] at others, love and friendship softened at others. Now Bryant (as you and your wife have been my pupils in Botany, and I have your confidence) do tell me plainly. Do these poems come from your little stooping puny self? Or does some singing, pitying, & fascinating, angel, use you as his vehicle, to relieve cold cloddy man from the harsh tones of hardy science? I am frightened at the thought of having been your teacher in 1820. Had you received your mission then? Did you then know, that you was destined to charm your clamorous coarse old teacher? Did you laugh when I affected to be your superior, because I knew the names of more weeds than you? Had the sacred nine then called on you? Did you then translate, in fancy, my Claytonia, my Anemone, my Solidago, &c. into verse, which you now sing so charmingly? Did you then destine me to early Death, whose terrors you have almost annihilated in your consolating hymn? Did you think of me, when you made your guide-board to the woods? Did Green River (whose banks I trode with you) call up your remembrance of your old School-master? There I showed you the Wind-flower, and traced its tender organs.

"Tell me plainly--is a poet truly a Vates? Did you really feel your heavenly birth, when I gave you the name of calyx, corol, and stamen, with loftily affected look?" NYPL-BG. See also Life, 1, 2.

265. To Charity Bryant

Vergennes July 13 1833.

Dear Aunt

I was this morning with my wife looking for you in Weybridge, but was told by a neighbour of yours who called himself Mr. Howard1 that you had gone with Miss Drake2 to Massachusetts. We were much disappointed at this though we might have saved the trouble of a ride out of our way through Weybridge had I taken the natural precaution to write to you before setting out from home in order to learn whether you would


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