Robert King Carter's Correspondence and Diary

   A Collection Transcribed
        and Digitized
   by Edmund Berkeley, Jr.

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Electronic Text Center , University of Virginia Library


Letter from Robert Carter to William Dawkins, January 28, 1724

     Robert Carter writes to London merchant William Dawkins, January 28, 1724, to report the arrival of a number of ships in the colony and his plans for shipping tobacco. He reminds Dawkins of the clothes he has ordered for his son Robin who had returned from England with no hats or shoes, especially winter shoes. He then writes at length about the text books that he wishes his son Landon to study while at Mr. Low's school, praising "Lillie's grammer" and Comenius' Jannua Linguarum Trilinguis. If Mr. Low cannot make Landon "a perfect Master of this Book in all the three Languages," then he will probably remove Landon to Eton where his grandson, Lewis Burwell, is a student.

Letter from Robert Carter to William Dawkins, January 28, 1724

-1 -

                             per Fowler
                             Copy per Keiling
Mr. Wm. Dawkins Rappahannock, [Lancaster County, Virginia]
Janr. 28th. 1723/24 --


     Adam Graves arrivd hither the 8th. Instant I have
Seen him but twice Suppose he writes to You himself, Cant had the
luck to get the Start of him three weekes, had he been as fortunate
his business would have been Easily compassd what it will be now
no doubt he will Inform You, I have not seen him this fortnight
When he came first on Shoar I told him I had not a hhd for him
believe I may now find him a little, he speaks pretty peremptorily
that the Carter will not be here this Year, that You were upon
thoughts of Sending Holliday into this river, I shall be glad if
it prove So, These forward Ships will very much drain us, those
that are to come will meet with but poor Glennings, for my
part I cannot promise my Self above thirty or forty hhds. of
leaf Tobo. that will be left out of all my Crops & to Ship Arronoko
to Londo. is one way of giving it away, you will have by
Keiling the fifty hhds. You charterd for me, & I suppose all Yor.
Friends Comply with their's, Will's Arriv'd about the same
time the Baily did, & if my If my Intelligence be true will get his
business done in time, I am not without hopes Adam will
do so too, I Staid hovering as long as I dar'st before I closed
with Cant for Some Freight, & had bin Shut out but for Collo.
care of me, Cant hath my Noats & the Tobo. lyes ready
but whether he will fetch it I am not certain, I should not
be at all uneasie if I can help Adam with The Baily wth it
I shall be very glad You have an Opportunity of Sending
my Son Robin the supply of some cloths &c which I writ for
[ ... ] [soo] n after his Arrival for indeed he is very bare, & most

-2 -

Especially of Shoos & Hatts having brought nothing home with
him, but the things he had new just at his coming away
& hath not a pr of Winter Shoos to his Feet which is some=
=thing Extraordinary,

     Charles I am in no doubt of seeing within this
Month or two. You tell me Landon is a hopefull boy, I
could wish Mr. Low had kept in the old way of teaching the
Lattin Tongue & had made my Boys perfect in their un=
=derstanding of Lillie's Grammer and of the Old School books
that We and Our forefathers learned, There is one Book
which did me the most service of any that I was Acquainted
with, to Witt , the Jannua Linguarum Trilinguis in Latin
English & Greek Writ by John Comenius, the best Stock of
Latin Words and in the best sense to Suit the Genius of Boys
Even to their Manhood, of any Book that Ever I met with
In my life, It is so very much in my Esteem that I would
desire You to give Positive directions to Mr. Low that My
Son Landon be made a perfect Master of this Book in
all the three Languages, that he may be so perfect to be able
with his Eye upon one of the Languages to repeat the other
tis so pretty a compendium of all the arts & Sciences & Writ
in so handsome a stile to captivate the Genious of Youth, that
I resolve to be pleasd in this matter, & am so much fixd in
it that if Mr. Low will not Answer my desire, I will have
my Boy removd to another School & I think if he is, the
next place Shall be to Eaton whither Lewis Burwell is gon
Mr. Low's School is valueable upon the good & orderly Government
of it, the care he takes of the Boys Moral's but if they do not
meet with a thorough Improvement in their Learning such
as will Stick by them & be usefull to them in their riper
Years all our cost is thrown away, & the greatest part of
their work is to do after they have left the School, it is not
reading a few scraps in the Poets & other Classicks that
makes boys understand the Scope & designe of the Authors, I
have had so good a Character of the Genius of Landon in his
Aptness to take learning as well as of the Stength of his
Memory that I have reason to think if he falls into good
hands he may be an Absolute Master of the Languages
before he Arrives to Eighteen Years of Age, He is a Younger
Brother I would make Learning a part of his Portion
which is all I shall say concerning him at present leaving
the rest to Your kind care & consideration.

I am,
Sir Yor. very humble Servt.

Colo: Page & myself have drawn upon
You for 50£ payble to Peter Richeson the
Genl. Oversr. which I desire You to Answer upon the Accot. of Mr. Burw[ell's]


Source copy consulted: Robert Carter Letter Book, 1723 July 4-1724 June 11, Carter Family Papers, Virginia Historical Society, Richmond. There is a nineteenth-century transcript of this letter in the Minor-Blackford Papers, James Monroe Law Office and Museum, Fredericksburg, Virginia.

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, especially to merchants abroad. The county and colony have been added for clarity to the heading on the draft.

[1] Adam Graves was a son of Captain Thomas Graves [d. ante 1720], long a captain of vessels trading to Virginia, and a special friend of Robert Carter's. Adam Graves commanded the Bailey in 1725-1727, a ship that belonged to London merchant William Dawkins. ( Survey Report 6800, for Adm. 68/194-196 found in the microfilms of the Virginia Colonial Records Project, Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, University of Virginia )

[2] Constantine Cant was the captain of the Burwell. ( Survey Report 6800 for Adm. 68/195, ff. 76v, Virginia Colonial Records Project, Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, University of Virginia. )

[3] William Holladay commanded a ship named the Princess Carolina. ( Survey Report 6800, found in the microfilms of the Virginia Colonial Records Project, Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, University of Virginia. )

[4] Oronocco tobacco was one of two major types grown in Carter's day. It was "bulkier and coarser than sweetscented . . . had a sharper leaf 'like a fox's ear,'" and was stronger in flavor "than sweetscented." ( Arthur Pierce Middleton. Tobacco Coast: A Maritime History of the Chesapeake Bay in the Colonial Era. Newport News, VA: Mariners' Museum, 1953. p. 97 )

[5] Captain William Keiling commanded the Betty. ( Survey Report 6800, Virginia Colonial Records Project, Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, University of Virginia )

[6] Captain Peter Wills commanded the Booth in 1723 and the Amity in 1727. ( Survey Report 6800, Virginia Colonial Records Project, Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library, University of Virginia. )

[7] Robert Carter (1704-1732) was Carter's seventh child by hissecond wife, Elizabeth Landon (Willis) Carter. Robert was sent to England to school in 1718; see Carter's letter to William Dawkins, July 9, 1718. Robert married Priscilla Churchill in 1725 and had two children, one of whom, Robert Carter III, would be known as "Councillor" Carter of "Nomini Hall." Robert Carter II died a few months before his father. (Morton. Robert Robert Carter of Nomini Hall. )

[7] Charles Carter (1707-1764), Robert Carter's tenth child with his second wife, Elizabeth (Landon) Willis Carter. He would live at "Cleve," King George County, and inherit a number of properties in that area from his father.

[8] Landon Carter (1710-1778) was Carter's seventh child by his second wife, Elizabeth (Landon) Willis, and was the second child to bear the name Landon, the first having died shortly after his birth in 1708. Landon would live at "Sabine Hall," Richmond County, and marry three times, leaving many descendants, some of whom own "Sabine Hall" today. As an adult, he would keep a very interesting and useful diary. (Greene. The Diary of Colonel Landon Carter. . . . )

[9] Mr. Low was Carter's sons' schoolmaster.

[10] Carter refers to William Lilly (1468?-1522) who "contributed a short Latin syntax, with the rules in English, to the Latin grammar by Colet and Erasmus, c. 1509. This, with another grammar, was the basis of the work known as Lily's Grammar which was long familiar to English schoolboys." It was, by Henry VIII, in 1540 imposed throughout the kingdom as the standard Latin text book. No copy of Lilly is listed in Carter's inventory, but there is a general entry for "7 grammers" that might have included Lilly. (The Oxford Companion to English Literature. Oxford University Press, 1995, excerpted online at as of 6/18/02; Wright. "The Literary Interests of the First Carters." p. 60.)

[11] No copy of Comenius's work appears in the inventory of Carter's library. A typical edition that Carter might have used would be: Johann Amos Comenius (1592-1670), Janua Linguarum Trilinguis, Sive, Johannis-Amos-Comenii Janua Linguarum: Novissime ab Ipso Authore Recognita, Aucta, Emendata: Adjunctis Metaphrasi Graeca et Anglicana Versione. London, 1670.

[12] "Eton College, near Windsor, Berkshire, one of England's largest independent secondary schools and one of the highest in prestige. It was founded by Henry VI in 1440-41 for 70 highly qualified boys who received scholarships from a fund endowed by the king. Simultaneously, Henry founded King's College, Cambridge, to which scholars from Eton were to proceed. That connection is no longer in place." ("Eton College," from the Encyclopedia Brittanica online, 1/10/2011)

[13] Lewis Burwell (1711 or 1712-1756), Carter's grandson by Elizabeth Carter Burwell and her first husband, Nathaniel Burwell (1680-1721). He was educated at Eton and Cambridge, and inherited considerable property, living at "Fairfield," Gloucester Coounty. He would be president of the Council in 1750-1751.(Kneebone et al. , Dictionary of Virginia Biography. ) 2:434-5.

This text, originally posted in 2002, was revised January 11, 2011, to add footnotes, and to strengthen the modern language version text.