Journal Letters: Chronological Inventory
Journal Leters: Index to Journalists
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Mount Holyoke Seminary,
SOUTH HADLEY, MASS., November 1, 1880.DEAR FRIENDS:
Would that your eyes could have looked upon these mountains round about our Jerusalem while they were covered with their autumn embroidery! Were they ever so beautiful before? Do you remember, you who have been longest absent, the view from our north and west fourth-story windows? And did you take long walks to the Pass of Thermopylae, and to Pearl City, and to Moody Corner? Whatever of the grand or beautiful you may have seen since would not, we are sure, make you think these scenes less lovely and restful to mind and heart than when you first saw them. September and October have been warm, sunshiny months; the purple and gold of the asters and goldenrods by every roadside, the yellow clouds of witch-hazel flowers beside lanes and by-paths, the glory of ,he forests, and the bright blue of the sky, have given us such lavish wealth of color, day after day, as we seldom see, even in our own New England. Now "the melancholy days are come," and we can more willingly sit down to write, since there are only "naked woods and meadows brown and sere" out of doors.
One of the meadows brown is a new possession of ours: it is a part of Mr. Cook's land, adjoining the Seminary grounds on the south side, two acres bordering upon the pond. So our girls have a larger play-ground, and our borders are enlarged by the removing of the fence beside the belt of trees running up the hill from the pond. The girls have been somewhat debarred from the delights of rowing, for the water has been very low; and we have feared the fever and ague, that has been unaccountably prevalent in this healthy village of South Hadley. But we are sincerely grateful that the two or three who came here predisposed to the disease were not seriously ill, and that only one other was affected at all.
We began the year with a larger number of pupils than we had at the beginning of last year, and it is a pleasant and lovable group that gathers about our tables day by day. Some of the new-comers, who were found to be not ready to enter, are in Mrs. Brown's preparatory school, which is quite near us in the village. Mrs. Brown came to South Hadley last year, to open such a school, and she has all the pupils she can take. Her daughter, who is one of our graduates, is the chief teacher. It gives the older teachers genuine pleasure to be able to say of a pupil, what we often can say now, " Her mother was my classmate; " or, better still, "Her mother was my teacher." The girls whose mothers were here seem especially ours. The Senior class is larger than it -has been for several years past, and all its members are professing Christians.
There is very little change among the teachers. Miss Townsend is absent, and Miss Samuel, one of last year's graduates, is with us. Miss Sherman, also, has returned as teacher of drawing, and a young lady has come to assist Miss Steele as music teacher, and to study a little.
Cornelius is in his place, always glad to see all the old pupils who come to visit us, and polite enough to appear to recognize them if he does not. He owns a snug little place on the road to the Ferry; his two eldest sons are young men, at work for themselves; the third is the farmer at home; the two next lie in the new " God's Acre " close by their house; the three youngest are at home. Will not you, who have received many little kindnesses from the willing hands of Cornelius, add your prayers, sometimes, to their mother's, for the conversion of his sons?
Thanks are especially due to Miss Shattuck for her persistent efforts, last year, which have resulted in our new hydraulic elevator. One member of the great creature travels up and down between the " middle room" and the fourth story; the other member, which is a huge cylinder filled with twelve tons of stones and gravel, makes its journeys between the drive-way and the drying-room above. Since we have no fall of water, stones must do duty for it. A small steam-engine beside the cylinder, with an automatic valve, controls the whole, and is itself indirectly controlled by the person who runs the elevator. We
find this a great convenience; somebody calls it an alleviator. It is pronounced "the kind of elevator that is absolutely safe;" but perhaps that is too much to say of any work of man.
The Trustees bad their semi-annual meeting not long ago, and, in consequence, we all had the pleasure of hearing Dr. Clark speak to us at the time of our morning devotions. Our beloved Mrs. Gulliver was here at the same time, for a few days. She said a few words to the school one morning; but she can bear very little, though much better than she was for many months. The teachers were all delighted to have her here, and were helped by her presence.
February 1, 1881. We came back on the 30th of December for our second term. Quite a number were "tardy in returning" - kept away by severe colds or the illness of friends. Our vacation was too short; but it is hard to know the best way of arranging terms and vacations. Three of our Trustees are Professors in Amherst College; and, if they were not, we should not like to have our Anniversary week the same as their Commencement week, so we must accommodate our plans to theirs; and there are objections to, every plan that can be made. About fifty remained here through the vacation, with five teachers, and were, apparently, as happy as those who went away, and perhaps less tired. Not more than fifty went away for the Thanksgiving recess of two days; the others ate the traditional turkey and cranberry-sauce here, and had a merry time in the evening over their cake and nuts, and their games.
We were very much favored, last term, in having so many honored and delightful guests. Miss Frances E. Willard gave us two earnest, stirring addresses - one concerning woman's work in the temperance reform, the other appealing directly to each heart to come to Jesus and abide in Him. Prof. Hofmeyr and daughter, of Stellenbosch, South Africa, spent a day with us, and he spoke to the school, addressing himself especially to those who are really Christians, but unhappy because they have not yet found the rest of faith. He did not seem a stranger to us, for we had heard so much of him from our graduates who are teachers in Africa; and we enjoyed his visit very much. Miss Ingraham, one of the Stellenbosch teachers, has been with us twice for a few days, and Miss Ferguson has made us two visits also. We expect to be greatly interested, as a matter of course, when any one of the South Africa teachers has anything to say to us. We wish all of you could hear a full account of these schools, from Rev. Andrew Murray's first thoughts and prayers about a Mt. Holyoke Seminary in South Africa, to the present time. His sister came here with Miss Ferguson -a refined, gentle, noble little woman, who is now to be at the head of the school in Graaf Reinet. She spoke to us most helpfully, one morning, dwelling especially upon the words, " Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine," in the parable of the Prodigal Son.
Rev. George Müller, of Bristol Orphan House fame, was in town for two days, with his wife, and spoke to us twice in his usual simple, earnest fashion. Dr. Allen Hazen walked into our dining-room, one day, accompanied by Rev. Narayan Sheshadri. How glad we were to see him; to hear the story, which he told us in the Seminary Hall, of his conversion, his family, and his "Bethel" in India; then to enjoy his conversation for a little while in the South Wing Parlor, and feel his hearty hand-clasp as he bade us all goodbye. He wore the dress of his own country: on his head was a great white turban, with a close-fitting woolen cap underneath when he went out of doors. Our little girl, seeing only the long white garment, with what looked like a dressing-gown worn loosely over it, inquired anxiously: "Hasn't that man any more clothes?"
"Our little girl" is Lotta Steele Fitch, six years old, the niece of Miss Steele, our teacher of music, who was left in the care of her aunt, by the death of her mother, last September. She came to us in October, and is still here -a sweet, sunshiny child, and a daily blessing. The sound of her feet running about the house, and the sight of her dear little face, with its grave brown eyes, as she always stands by the piano while her aunt leads us in our singing, will be sorely missed when she goes away.
February 22. A marble bust of Dr. Kirk has come to us, and stands in the library. It is a gift from the class of '73, and is a copy of the one which is in Mt. Vernon Church.
The motto of that class was "The marble waiteth." Dr. Kirk was here a number of weeks in their Senior year, and they felt an especial gratitude and attachment to him. He was prevented by illness from giving the address to the class on their graduating day, as he had intended, but that evening he told them his thoughts about their motto : not their thoughts of marble waiting for them to work upon, but of themselves as the marble for God to chisel, chasten, and polish into beauty. This added significance, coming from his lips, has doubled the value of their motto to the class; and was not the marble bust of Dr. Kirk the gift above all others fit and beautiful for that class to bestow upon the Seminary? It is so like him, especially on one side, that some of us, when we saw it the first time, felt as if we were looking at his dead face, and we could not keep back the tears. Col. Rice's death, last summer, took from us another long-tried, valued friend and trustee, whose presence we shall greatly miss on Anniversary days, and whose prayers we shall doubtless miss more than we can know. Early in November Mr. Kingman also entered into rest. Neither pupils nor younger teachers can well understand bow the older teachers feel the loss of these trustees, whom they have known so long, grateful as they are for those who are God's gifts to us in their places.
A great many sad messages have come to us this year. Near the close of last term there were two or three days when a kind of oppression seemed to settle upon the household, each one thinking, "Shall I be the next one sent for?" Six telegrams came within a week and a half, quite recently: two of our girls have lost their homes by fire; and father, mother, brother, sister, grandparent, and near friend have been laid away in the grave. Miss Holmes is absent now on account of her mother's serious illness. Miss Melvin has been called home twice, once by her brother's, and again by her father's death.
The first Monday of the year was observed as a day of prayer by us, and we united with the Christian world in the Week of Prayer. Three days we had only our usual recess-meetings; the other three days we met in the lecture-room. Dr. Love spoke to us Monday afternoon. It was a good day to many, and we cannot doubt that it helped to make the day of prayer for colleges a blessing to us. Mr. and Mrs. Harding, from India, were with us then - Mr. Harding spoke to us in the morning, again in the evening, and in the afternoon, Mrs. Harding told us of her missionary work. She is just the same dear Lizzie Ballantine as of old, very little changed by mission and family cares. Amherst is their home while in this country, so we hope to see them often. They must have left a blessing behind them by their earnest words, and their presence was helpful and delightful to us. The influence of the day has been manifest since: Christians have been quickened, and we rejoice with great joy over some who have come to Jesus for the first time; but we need, oh, how greatly, that which the home churches so much - need, more earnestness, constancy, consistency, in professing Christians' lives.
We have had some beautiful gifts from classes, besides the one we have already told you about. Here they are, in the Art Gallery: this Sistine "Madonna" is from the class Of '53; this copy, by Raphael Morghen, of Guido's "Aurora," is from the class of '49; and here is a copy, by Toschi, of Correggio's "Assumption of the Virgin," part of a fresco in the cathedral at Parma, from the class of '55. All are large line engravings, you see, of great beauty. This little copy of Knaus's "Nativity" is also from the class of '55. Here is a Japanese bronze, a gift from former pupils who are now missionaries in Japan. It is a dragon, as ugly as the ,beast " in the Revelation; from his mouth issues what is supposed to be spray, from the center of which rises a goddess, Benten-Sama by name, who is fabled to have been born in this way, somewhat like Venus from the foam of the sea. It is valuable as a specimen of Japanese ideas of art, and it is very curious and interesting. (Miss Shattuck says it is beautiful ! but this is because she studied creatures of similar attractions-like the dragon, we mean; not the goddess - on the isle of Penikese, under Prof. Agassiz.) We want to write to you, in our next letter, about Miss Clapp's new zoological treasures, but we must tell you now of a greater treasure still, our new observatory. It is across the road, a few rods back from it, and south of the High School building which is close against the old burying-ground. We are sorry it could not be nearer the Seminary, but there was no suitable place. The house is nearly finished, but the glass for the telescope cannot be ready at present. The acre of ground, the building, and all its equipments are the gift of Mr. Lyman Williston, in memory of his son who died at the
age of fourteen, nearly two years ago. When it is all ready for use. we will write you more particularly about it; in the meantime you will be greatly thankful with us that we have the coveted observatory which we could see only in the far distance a year ago.
We have two new Chickering pianos this year, which, with the four Steinways already in the house and one other good piano, leave us nothing to be desired in the way of quality, but we should not object to more in number. The relative place of music among the studies taken up here must be much higher than it used to be; in these days we could not have it otherwise. We should like to quote all that Miss Evans says of it as "an educational help," in her letter to the former pupils of Lake Erie Seminary, which we have just read with delight. Those who take lessons in music are expected to do as thorough work in the practice-hour as in any other study-hour; they are given only really good music to study, and the weekly pupils' recitals -for pupils only -give them confidence, and serve in other ways the purpose of an ordinary recitation. We had a rare pleasure, last term, in listening to a concert given in the Seminary Hall by the Beethoven Club of Boston - Messrs. Allen, Fries, Heindl, and Dannreuther; how they entranced us by their "wanton heed and giddy cunning!" Their programme was a very choice one, and in the intervals of their music came the fresh, strong, sweet singing of Mrs. Humphrey Allen. May her manners never lose the charm of their naturalness, nor her voice its suggestions of woods and fields! The whole company could have had no doubt of the hearty delight of their audience, and we echo Miss Evans's words, " Think what it would be to have at our command, each year, a fund for securing to ourselves such opportunities for culture."
Other opportunities for culture have come to us in the guise of the lectures to which we have listened. Prof. Churchill gave us a short course of lessons in elocution, early in October, closing with one of his charming readings. Then followed the chemical lectures by Prof. Thompson. We always enjoy his genial presence as much as his lectures; he makes us appreciate the blessings of "heart-easing mirth," and the "cheerfulness and festival spirit" that "composes music for churches and hearts." And in our work as teachers we find in him a sympathetic and appreciative friend. This term we have listened to a course of lectures on the " Science of Pedagogics" by Dr. W. T. Harris, formerly of St. Louis, now of Concord, Mass. They were full of material for thought in days to come; so full that we must needs lose much that was valuable unless we have kept it in our notes. He opened a great many doors for us- to use his own figure- and to how wide a domain! How he ennobled the teacher's calling! How our work grew in its scope, its privileges, its possible results, as we listened ! You all know something of his deserved reputation as a philosopher and teacher, but no truth was uttered more clearly in his lectures than this: that knowledge and philosophy are vain, unless the eternal life of the soul and its allegiance to God are kept constantly in view and made of the first importance. He seemed less a stranger to us because his four sisters and other near relatives have been pupils here, and the hours of conversation with him were no less valuable than the lectures. We shall welcome him heartily if he can come again.
The monotony of school-life has been varied for a few weeks past by a visitation of measles. We could very well afford to dispense with any such variety, but we cannot always be choosers, and we are thankful that the infliction has been of so mild a type. Physicians and nurses have had a busy and wearisome time, but some funny experiences have come sometimes to make the days easier for them and for their patients.
This letter ought not to go on its way without making mention of Mr. Obed Montague's death, which occurred in January. His house, you know, has always been a kind of Seminary home. Mrs. Montague's friendship and kind deeds, which began with the Seminary's beginning, have continued until now, and the daughter at home follows in her footsteps. They will probably leave the old homestead in the spring. Wherever they are, may they be ministered unto in every time of need, as they have ministered unto others.
May this letter find you all possessing the richest of the blessings often asked here for "all who have ever been members of this household," and as many of His lesser gifts as His wise love sees best. And may yours be the energetic, fervent prayer that shall avail much for us. With greetings from the Seminary,
ELLEN P. BOWERS.
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