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Catalog Number 2016.02.0045
Object Name Letter
Date 1836
Title 1836 Sept 21 Eliza S. M. Quincy to Margaretta Mason Brown
Scope & Content Letter from Eliza S.M. Quincy (Cambridge,MA) to Margaretta Mason Brown (Frankfort, KY) discusses a recent visit by Margaretta to Massachusetts. Quincy writes of friends and extravagant presents received by them. She sends Margaretta details of the recent commencement and Bicentennial activities at Harvard University (which was founded in 1636). Her father Josiah Quincy III was the president of Harvard from 1829-1845.

[Transcription]

Cambridge September 21, 1836

My dear Mrs Brown

I hasten to acknowledge the arrival of your letter from Frankfort and to assure you that I shall be most happy to obey your wishes and exert my pen in your service to do all in my power to keep bright the chain of friendship which after lasting forty years has I trust acquired new luck this summer which the Allegheny itself cannot break. -We are very happy you have reached your home in safety and retain such aggregable recollections of New England; rocky shore amid the fertile region of the west. We have often wished for you & Mr Brown during the last fort night to enjoy with us the interesting public days of the last of August & the first of September. Commencement day passed off very agreeably. The public performances in the church always occupy the morning and in the afternoon we always see company. -The Governor and suite the Cooperation of the university all the gentlemen deeply do always come here from the public dinner and as we give general invitations to all strangers the levee on that afternoon is always a most amusing party comprising fashionable belles & beaus & grave divines & statesmen-& personages of all professions & all parts of the U.S.-Our old mansion which you kindly approved is very accommodating in its dimensions & well decorated with flowers & a full band of music to give animation to the scene it appears to great advantages & the afternoon & evening always pass very pleasantly.-Two of our millionaire friends always remember us on their occasions & send us magnificent presents of flowers & fruit. Col Tho. Perkins-I believe I mentioned to you as one of our most [crease in letter obscures word] merchants and showed you the establishment in Pearl St he have for the Institution for the Blind. Wm. Cushing I do not remember mentioning. -After residing thirty years in Canton he returned to this country with an immense fortune; with which he happily [illegible] great liberality of disposition. -He married one of our Boston ladies, but his long residence in China has made him lose all pleasure in the intercourse & he lives in the country at a beautiful seat a few miles from us. -Though he seldom appears he frequently remembers his friends & reminds me of one of the Invisible Geniuses in Eastern Story who gives much gifts & remains unseen. -
One that he bestowed on us was so singular that I was lost to describe it. Commencement morning a cart stopped at our house & two men lifted out something like an old fashioned sedan chair supported between poles. It was neatly covered with cloth and I almost expected when it was brought into our entry to see some fair lady appear who like Queen Berengaria was "condemned to the pleasure of seeing without enjoying the more excellent pleasure of being seen". -However when the veil was withdrawn a grape vine appeared loaded with 16 clusters of purple grapes & growing in a jar about four feet in circumference which was covered with evergreen & flowers & wreathed round the top with splendid Dahlia's .-It is the latest fashion of the Horticultural luxury to plant grape vines in jars & bring them to table growing.-"The earth round the" plant was concealed by asters cut off close to the flower & placed thick together these flowers were kept alive by being thick in wet sand .-"The whole vine & its appurtenances was more than five feet in height & it formed a most beautiful & novel ornament for one of our center tables .-None of our visitors even gentlemen who had passed years in Europe had ever seen anything like it .-After Commencement was over the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the foundation of the Universities on the 8th of September bequest engage all our attentions .-Letters had been written to all the living Alumni to come to the Festival of their Alma Mater & more than 1200 obeyed the summons some from the farthest extremity of the Union. My father has devoted the nine weeks of vacation to writing the address he was appointed to speak as President. -As the day approached great anxiety was felt expecting the weather, some clouds threatened but happily they all passed away and every circumstance was proposition.-The best description which has been written appeared in the New York American by Wm Charles King who was present & if I can obtain one I will forward it to Frankfort .-or else one of our Boston papers -giving a general description of the day .-About nine o'clock on the 8th the Alumni the [crease in letter obscures words] began to collect at University Hall where blank books were prepared for the signature of all present & during the day upward of a thousand names were written. The piazza, portico of the College were decorated with evergreen, & flowers & over the three principal gateways to the College grounds were placed the names of Dunster & Chauncy the two first Presidents & that of Harvard.-At ten o'clock a procession of about 1500 persons was formed in the Congregational Church.-& filled the whole floor of the house while galleries appropriated to the ladies, were entirely filled & we of course were among the number.-Such an assembly of educated men was never before convened in our Care & with the invited guests comprised most of the eminent men of the country. The services commenced by a prayer by Dr Ripley a clergyman of the class of 1776.-it was solemn & impressive.-Then came a beautiful & appropriate ode which you will read in the paper I will send.-& then my father's address which lasted two hours.-It was a historical sketch of the early founders & Presidents of the College & a tribute to its numerous benefactors. -My father was suffering under a cold which prevented him from speaking as he otherwise would have done but he [crease in letter obscures words] & his address universally approved.-When it is printed I will send a copy.-Another prayer by an aged clergyman proceeded & then the Doxology "from all that dwell below the skies," sung by the whole audience standing had a grand effect.-The past, the present, the future combined to render the occasion one of intense & solemn interest.-The story of those men of old "Who to Life noblest end, gave us Life [torn page] "And bade the legacy descend - down down to [torn page] seemed almost to [stain on page] literary men come up from all [torn page] of our land to do honor to their Alma Mater .-The meeting of [illegible] separated friends.- "the welcome farewell."-so rapidly to succeed each other and then another dispersion.-a separation not to be broken on this side the grave.-The thought "of that far day When others come their kindred debt to pay "When we & ours have rendered up our trust "And men unborn shall tread above our dust."-All all combined to remember the moment one of the million emotions.-Many interesting coincidences also occurred to my mind.-My grandfather when he made his will in 1774 left the greatest part of his properties to this College in case his then infant son died a minor could he have looked forward through the long vista of 62 years & seen his son as the President of the University addressing such an assembly on such a day & his family & his country in present state of unparalleled prosperities he would have deemed the [torn page] too bright to be realised .--My brothers, were of course both present and my eldest nephew being seven years old his father took him to hear his grandfather.-To that [torn page] were there Josiah Quincy, in direct accessions. -Another curious coincidence to an antiquarian like myself was that my father through his mother's families is a direct descendant of Wilson & Phillip, the two first clergymen who came out in 1630. - & preached together under a tree. -After two centuries it is singular that the person called by his official relation to speak this address should be literally one so related to "the stock of the Puritan" When the procession left the church class after class was removed beginning with 1759.-in which any survivor remained.-It was striking to see no one move in obedience to the call.-They had all joined the great company of the departed, or were too infirmed to attend the summons of their Alma Mater. - At length one old man of the class of 1774 moved down the aisle & was loudly cheered by his younger brethren.-The procession moved to a Pavilion erected on the College grounds by the Alumni for their dinner.-It covered 10,000 square feet of ground & was supported in the center by a span 65 feet in height.-from the summit waved a white banner on which the armor of the College was emblazoned.-The paper will give you an account of the dinner.-it lasted till 8 o'clock when my brother Josiah Quincy who took the chair when the Governor left the table moved to adjourn to the next Centennial 1936.-The vote was unanimously passed.--The College building, the Divinity & Law school, the Gothic windows of the church and most of the private houses were brilliantly illuminated.-- [illegible] appropriate name & motto & bon fires blazed on several neighboring heights.- Our old mansion was [illegible] with a profusion of green house flowers sent by the Invisible Genius who also bestowed another grape vine loaded with white grapes.-Well lighted in every story is beamed forth with unprecedented brilliance on its second Centennial & was through [illegible] by the Alumni & visitors & strangers from all parts of the U.S. -At ten o'clock the illumination cleared the crowds quietly dispersed & the day was concluded & closed with a dignity & decorum worthy the solemn festival of a great literary institution. ---I have filled this letter. I was aware.-We are all well & my [continues on page one] mother requests to be affectionately remembered.-and believe me ever your
E.S. Quincy

[Address Block]
Mrs Margaretta Brown
care of John Brown Esq
Frankfort
(Kentucky)

[Postmark]
Cambridge Ms
Sep 22

People Margaretta Mason Brown
Eliza S.M. Quincy
Josiah Quincy III
Search Terms Cambridge, MA
Frankfort, KY
Harvard Bicentennial
Harvard University