Robert King Carter's Correspondence and Diary

   A Collection Transcribed
        and Digitized
   by Edmund Berkeley, Jr.

List of Letters | About This Collection

Electronic Text Center , University of Virginia Library


December 18, 1717
Letter from Robert Carter to [Daniel McCarty, 1717 December18]

     Robert Carter writes to Daniel McCarty of Westmoreland County,December 18, 1717, concerning McCarty's son's progress in schoolunder Carter's master, noting that the boy has made some progress evenif it is not what his father had hoped for. He gives McCarty hisopinion that "It is not always the best scholars that make the wisest men," and counsels McCarty that it will "neither be just nor prudent in you to make his ineptitude the measure of your benevolence." He continues that he intends to send his sons toEngland for a better education, that "Dick Lee's" master has beengiven a good recommendation by a merchant, and that sending a boyearly to England is better. He notes that he cannot write himself andwill not include any thoughts about politics except his opinion that"a vigorous, judicious, honest Assembly" is needed, and that hewishes they lived closer so that they could talk more often. Heconcludes that he has been glad to hear that McCarty's reputationwith his neighbors is rising, and that he sends respects of his ownfamily and of McCarty's son.

Robert Carter to [DanielMcCarty,] [December 18, 1717]

-1 -

[Rappahannock, LancasterCounty, Virginia]
[December 18,1717]

     Your son's improvement here
has notbeen so great as Icould wish,
and my own children'sis little
more; yet you must give me leave
to tell you theexamination he
has passedthrough I take to have
been a very partial one. Were my
Domine [sic] to be by with your young
=erson's Domine and both
youngsters to pass a fair tryal,
their advance in theirbooks would
appear to you in a verydifferent

-2 -

Your son has been three times through
his Grammar and I can'tbelieve
but some of it sticks tohim. He
came here under the character of
not being veryhappy in his learn
=ing. He hadmade little progress
at Mr. Lee's . Iwish he may an
=swer yourexpectations better
in the next place he goes to; but be
that as it will it will neitherbe
justnor prudent in you to make
his ineptitude the measure of
your benevolence. It is notal
=ways the best scholars that make
the wisest men northose of the
promptest parts thatprove the
most solid in their judgements
&determination. I know a great
many of myacquaintances that
at the schools were but very
dunces,yett now in their man
=hood are discreet & growing men
far surpassingothers that were
much their masters in Lillie's
whileschoolboys together.
-3 -

If after all your trya ls Dennis
should prove but a dull
boy, I should think 'tis your
part still to keep him thrashing
at it till he hath [sic] atolerable
snatch of the Latin tongue atleast.
But I cannot think any school
in this countrycomparable to
what may be had inEngland.
Dick Lee's Master I intend my
boys to, of whom I have avery
reputable character from one
of my Merchants. But Ishall
leave this matter to your
consideration, only mentioning
a short story of my eldestson,
whose Master did severaltimes
wish he had had him with
him two years sooner. 'Tisto
little purpose we enumerate
our losses. Troubles we are born
to as the sparks flyupward.
A streak of lean to a streak
of fat makes the best food for
us, that we may always bear
-4 -

about us the remembrance of our mor
=talitie and that we are but so
=journers here;andto quicken
our pursuit after a more certain
bliss beyondthe Grave.

     I cannot write myself -- must
there fore wave descending to partic
=ulars upon politics. It is my present
thots [sic] this poor Country never stood
inmore need of a vigorous, judici
=ous,honest Assembly than at
this time; but we must leave
allto the event of an over=ruling
power which turns the councils
of men at [sic] it pleases.

     I did hear you were very much
lost in the opinion of your
neighbours, but am glad it is other
=wise -- could wish we had more
frequentconversation, but the
distancebetween us won't allow

     You have the respects of ths fam
=ily & with yourson's -- and
especially his whois,



Source copy consulted: Minor-Blackford Papers, James Monroe Law Office and Museum, Fredericksburg,Virginia. These texts are all nineteenth-century copies. Apparentlythere was in existence a letter book of Robert Carter's -- nowlost -- from which the unknown copiest recorded these texts. Asthey are the only texts, the punctuation and "corrections"obviously supplied by the copiest have been retained.

The copyist wrote a note before copying the text of theletter: "[I cannot resist the temptation to copy this characteristicepistle, as it tends to throw light on thedownright manner of Mr. Carter. He was wont, it seems by this as wellas by many other letters, to 'call a spade a spade.'"

"The copying clerk has unfortunately omitted the address &date, but it stands in the Letter Book immediately after one datedDec: 11th 1717 & on on the 18th of the followingFebruary.]"

Robert Carter generally used a return address of"Rappahannock" for the river on which he lived rather than"Corotoman," the name of his home, on his correspondence, especiallyto merchants abroad. The county and colony have beenadded for clarity to this unheaded letter.

[1] A schoolmaster.

[2] The Lee referred to cannot be identified. NeitherThomas nor Henry Lee had marriedin 1717, and it seems unlikely that either would have kept a schoolat his home otherwise. Carter mayrefer to the name of the schoolmaster.

[3] Carter refers to a Latin textbook by William Lilywho is known as "thegrammarian." It is Lilies Rules Construed. Whereunto areAdded Tho. Robinsons Heroclites, the Latine Syntaxis, and Que mihi.Also . . . Rules for the Gender of Nounes, etc. There werenumerous seventeenth-and eighteenth-century printings andeditions.

[4] Richard Lee (1647-1715).

This text revised September 30,2008.