Ship H. Astor, at Sea off the Island of Juanfernandes Mar. 4, 1842
My dear child, Here I am again at my favorite theme of penning a line of good advice for the benefit of Seth Pinkham Jr. And after a few incidental remarks I shall again turn to the “scrap-book” and make another draft upon its pages. When I was quite a boy my father used to set me copies to write by, (for my parents being poor could not afford to pay a teacher for giving me my first lessons) Some of which I still remember — So true it is, that “early impressions sink deep”. One of my copies was in these words, it has served me for a motto and will also serve you “Have communion with few, be intimate with one; Deal justly with all, Speak evil of none”.
But before we proceed permit me to diverge a little by attending to our voyage*
The good ship Henry Astor which now keeps your beloved father afloat upon the briny waters, is lying in a profound calm in sight of the Island of Juan fernandes, once
* I had forgotten to mention to you that I am writing a journal of my cruise for the edification and gratification of an only son (but eight years old when I left home) that he may turn to its pages at some future time and learn where his father went after he left him standing on the wharf defected and cast down. Other things have crowded in, or I shan't have given you extracts [illegible]
celebrated in history as being the spot which afforded an asylum for the famous exile, "Alexander Selkirk"; whose solitary abode in this island gave rise, (if I remember right to that notorious fiction called "Robinson Crusoe". Well, as we said before we are lying in a profound calm, and whenever the breeze strikes, (which, by the by, there is not the slightest indication of at present) I intend to stand in with the shore, for the purpose of taking off a raft or two of fresh water; of which there is a beautiful stream running fr. the mountains to the beach, (for a more particular description of this Island, see Book 2. of the journal p. 7. 8 and 9.) There are now several men on the island; only one of whom claims to be a perminent resident. When I was last here he gave me a part of his history. He is an english sailor, from Somersetshire, Eng. by the name of 'Thomas [Leavers??] and was landed here from Talcahuano, by Capt John Pitman, of Ship Congress of Nantucket.
I have put on board the ship Magnolia, Barnard, of N. B. a good sized Terrapin (or land tortoise) as a present for you, and as something which has lived & moved (though slow) and had it being on board the Henry Astor. This singular quadruped was taken from the almost inaccessable mountains of the West side of the South Head of Albemarle, one of the Gallapagos groupe. These animals will live a long time on board ship without tasting food, still it is better to feed them. Capt. David Porter says in his journal that "they will live twelve months stowed away in
a Ships lower hold without victuals and increase in fatnep[?] and flavor!" This story I suppose he got from the whalers or he can't not have known it from his own experience; but no matter where it came from, it is what the sailors call a "fish story"- mere 'moon-shine'
Some further notice of Capt. P's exaggerations in regard to the terrapin will be found in Book 1 p. 115.16 of the journal. Having alluded to the contents of the journal once or twice I suppose that your ears begin to itch to hear a page from it. I shall probably give you an extract occasionally but you must remember the end is not yet.
I felt as though I could not dash right into the Seraf-book until I had given you a few preliminary remarks which you may use as a preface to the following pages.
In all that I have said to you by way of advice it has been my constant aim to keep my language down to a level with your age and capacity; for what signifies preaching, writing, or talking in a style unsuited to the minds of your hearers[?]. How much eloquence and argument is totally wasted even from the Sacred desk, by our pious teachers, only in consequence of their vain endeavors to make a dis- play of learning. This idle and astintatious [OSTENTATIOUS] propensity is not only worse than useless but is truly to be deprecated; for after our divine teachers have spent much time and study in preparing a discourse, honestly intended for the good
of souls. have after is it wasted and thrown to the wind in delivery by this foolish practice of continually firing over the heads of the audience?
If I shan't be guilty of tautology of exprefion [
to do. And thier advice belongs to a riper age. What I have already said and what I am now about to say is calculated to lay the foundation, while you are young, for further inquiry: and not to be constantly bewildered by the too common saying, "why, I never thought on't." How many there are in the world who have been obliged to learn the very lessons at 30, or even at 40 years of age that they ought to have learnt when they were 20. And how many who, because they have neglected to inform themselves even before they were twenty, have grown up in ignor -ance yet ashamed to confess it, and finally have been obliged to wade through life a degraded being (in the eye of the publick at least) simply because they had neglected their studies when they were young.
In addressing you from time to time, I have endeavoured, as I said before, to assume a style of composition strickly my own. It may be considered quite too low for the standard of polite literature, but this objection, if it be an objection is easily got over with when we reflect that these pages were not intended for the press: -- The M.S. is not to be sold for bread to feed a starving family, but is intended to enliven the fireside scenes, and remind you all that you once had a father. In the end then, we are not to look for publick praise,